Aging advocates have long suspected elder abuse was more widespread than popular surveys suggested. It turns out, they were right. Not only is elder abuse more common than previously reported, it is on the rise. So much so that the United States federal government recently launched a task force to better protect our seniors.
Introducing the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force
Experts from the Justice Department say 10 percent of this nation’s older adults have been victims of emotional, financial, or physical abuse. The goal of the task force is to coordinate efforts and bring justice to seniors no matter where the criminal resides, nationally or internationally.
According to the Justice Department, the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force is made up of “prosecutors and data analysts from the Consumer Protection Branch, prosecutors with six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (Central District of California, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas), FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel. The Strike Force will also collaborate with the Federal Trade Commission and industry partners, who have pledged to engage with the Department to help end the scourge of elder fraud.”
In addition to these transnational members, every U.S. Attorney’s Office across the country will have an Elder Justice Coordinator assigned to them.
Who Is Harming Our Seniors?
While instances of international financial fraud targeting seniors are escalating quickly, the most common abusers of our elders are still people close to them. According to the National Council on Aging, in 60 percent of elder abuse cases, a family member is the abuser.
When a senior has Alzheimer’s disease, the statistics are even more disturbing. Experts believe nearly half of all adults with Alzheimer’s have been abused by a caregiver at some point since their diagnosis.
Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse comes in many forms. While physical and financial receive the most attention, elder abuse can generally be broken down into five categories:
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse doesn’t discriminate. It happens to people of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The most common signs of elder abuse include:
- frequent bruises, bumps, puncture marks, and skin abrasions
- unexplained injuries or injuries that don’t add up
- unintended weight loss or a gaunt, dehydrated appearance
- decline in personal care and hygiene (e.g., soiled clothing, dirty hair)
- increased sadness or tearfulness
- anxiety or nervousness around some family members or caregivers
- withdrawing from social clubs, religious organizations, and family events
- bladder infections, genital infections, or diseases
- bruising on or near private body parts
- neglect of home repairs and cleaning
- large withdrawals from senior’s financial accounts
- unexplained purchases on their credit or debit card.
When a family member or caregiver is abusing a senior, their behavior can be very telling. Common red flags include:
- talking for the senior and not allowing them to speak for themselves
- not leaving the older adult alone to visit with friends and loved ones
- restricting who can visit the senior and for how long.
What to Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse
If you suspect an older adult is in immediate danger from elder abuse, call 911. This is the quickest way for authorities to intervene in a dangerous situation.
For abuse of other types, the Adult Protective Services (APS) in your city or county is a resource to turn to for help. APS will visit the senior in person to assess the situation and determine whether further investigation is required.
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