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Elder Abuse

Sunday March 15, 2015 - Jennifer Prell
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Elder abuse is currently a hot topic.  There are millions of seniors being abused every day - financial exploitation, physical abuse, mental abuse and self neglect are all examples of elder abuse.  How do we protect our seniors from predators?  

There is no easy answer.  Seniors are targeted because they are more trusting than most, have disposable income and can easily be taken advantage of.  The following are actual situations that Elderwerks has been called about.  Names have been changed to protect our families.

Caregiver abuse - I had a call from a woman regarding her 92 year old mother who had dementia.  The daughter hired a caregiver through local advertisements.  She wasn't licensed through an agency or by the state of Illinois to provide care.  The daughter thought she was nice and caring, which she was.  The issue was that she was a thief.  She started taking care of the woman and within 6 months time had spent thousands at Costco.  She would make one purchase per week around $90 to $150 in purchases and ship them to her family in Nigeria.  The caregiver then took the mother to an attorney and had her will changed to benefit the caregiver.  There should have been red flags when they walked into the attorney's office but no questions were asked.
The daughter just happened to look at the checking account and noticed all of the purchases supposedly for her mother.  She called me in a panic and asked what she should do.  I told her to hang up with me, call 911, report the abuse and then call me back.   She did exactly as I said and the police arrested the caregiver.  That's when they found out about the will.  Mom had not signed it yet so they didn't have to prepare any more documents.  The caregiver had also purchased a one-way ticket to Nigeria and was planning on leaving the country within a short period of time.  I was glad the daughter caught the woman before anything else had occurred.   
Another situation of elder abuse occurred when we got a call from a senior we'll call Mildred.  Mildred wanted to move into assisted living.  We referred her to a few senior communities to tour and asked her to visit and then we'd follow up with her.  She went to a community, with her caregiver, and enjoyed a nice tour and really liked the building.  During lunch the caregiver through a fit and said the "food wasn't even good enough for dogs" and through a tantrum upsetting the current residents of the building and embarrassing the senior.  The caregiver was escorted out of the building and banned from the building.  Mildred finished her lunch and said that they food was excellent (which it was - I've eaten there many times) and she really looked forward to moving in.
The senior community called to follow up with Mildred but the caregiver always said she was "sleeping" at all hours of the day.  They called me worried about Mildred so I called myself to follow up.  The caregiver did the same thing to me at 10:00 am and so I called back at 2:30 pm.  The caregiver said the same thing - Mildred is sleeping.  I said "she's not sleeping put her on the phone now!"  The caregiver put Mildred on the phone and Mildred said the caregiver wouldn't let her talk to anyone or see anyone.  She was basically being held hostage.
I reported the elder abuse to the Lake County Catholic Charities abuse department and they said it was the 12th complaint that month they received about this caregiver.  They had visited Mildred but they weren't allowed in the door.  They brought the police with them but Mildred was fully aware of her situation and didn't want to do anything so Catholic Charities couldn't do a thing.  There were no children and Mildred had full capacity. 
When hiring a caregiver please make sure to use a licensed home care agency.  They are required by law to make sure the people they hire are of the quality  you'd want for your loved one.

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