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Protecting Seniors from Elder Abuse & Exploitation

In our previous post honoring World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we covered some of the factors in elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

The issue of abuse and exploitation is too often hidden. Many seniors are reluctant to report abuse for reasons of fear and intimidation and especially fears that reporting abuse may result in worse consequences such as being removed from home or prosecution of a family member. Exploitation cases tend to be hampered by embarrassment and fears that others will think the senior is no longer capable. These are not easy issues to overcome, but the more support and interaction an elderly person has, the less likely abuses are to occur or at minimum, are more likely to be uncovered (more quickly).

Here are some considerations for protecting your elderly loved ones or clients:

• Reduce isolation. Visitors and a variety of people checking in can reduce risk. Scammers may be less likely to prey on someone when they see others involved or hear from the person that friends and family regularly visit and have open discussions. If you live at a distance, consider having a geriatric care manager check in who can be your “eyes and ears” and has the professional training to spot potential concerns.

• Try to start an open dialogue early…about issues of care, preferences and financial issues. An open dialogue will make it more likely your loved one will share changes or concerns with you. It is so much better to get the call, “Someone came over today and I signed something I am not feeling comfortable about now” than to find out months or years later or never about a long pattern of exploitation.

• Watch for patterns and changes. As a family member or professional working with a client, something may be amiss when the person wants to change long-held patterns (i.e. drastic changes to estate plans, cutting off communications with family members, no longer participating in any activities).

• Talk to professional advisors about potential family concerns and conflicts. Your parent’s estate planning attorney and financial advisor should know about family conflicts, if your loved one is willing to disclose that or allow you to share information. The more information given to professional advisors, the better they can prepare a plan that is most appropriate. Consider a consultation with a geriatric care manager also to discuss concerns and potential preventative measures. A family mediator can specifically help families talk through conflicts and reach compromises as well.

• Services and supports can help improve quality of life, but also reduce isolation and risk. In-home caregivers can visit with loved ones; meals on wheels volunteers not only bring nutrition to your loved one but a friendly visitor who checks in; getting out to senior nutrition programs, adult day care, senior center programs or escorted activities reduces your loved one’s time at home alone where he/she is particularly vulnerable to scammers. Healthy interaction with others may help a senior to be more comfortable confiding concerns.

• Be aware of major changes in relationships with family members and keep connected even if you are the loved one at a distance. Has your cousin become unemployed and moved in to help out with Mom? That may be a wonderful solution and he could help to be your eyes and ears, but it is important to retain your relationship and call and visit as you are able. If you have a vague feeling of concern (whether about a family member or professional caregiver), do not underestimate your gut. Keep a closer eye on things or consider bringing in a care manager to help monitor the situation (the care manager can offer ways to do so while not offending the person about whom you have concerns).

Contact us at 727-447-5845 for help with any eldercare concerns, advice and monitoring for family caregivers at a distance.

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