Most elder abuse happens in the home and not in nursing homes. Without question abuse and mistreatment of the elderly occurs in nursing homes and at the hands of strangers, but it’s disturbing to learn that most abused seniors suffer abuse at the hands of those closest to them. Sadly, these are just two of the common myths surrounding elder abuse. It’s disturbing to learn that most abused seniors suffer abuse at the hands of those closest to them. These abusers include relatives, caregivers, and other trusted people.
Myth #1 – Well-Educated seniors don’t fall prey to financial crimes. Criminals know better than using easily detectable scams that prey upon their intended victim’s intelligence or education. Instead, these criminals associate their crime with the family of the senior. The scam involves a senior getting a phone call alerting them that their grandchild is in legal trouble or needs emergency surgery in another country. Once the senior has sent thousands of dollars to help their grandchild they realize it was a swindle.
Myth #2 – The courts won’t do anything about elder abuse. This is simply not true! California has very specific laws prohibiting abuse of the elderly. Physical or mental abuse of the elderly can result in thousands of dollars in fines and may include prison time. California law adds additional prison time if the senior adult suffers great bodily harm or dies from the abuse. Financial abuse of the elderly is punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to four years.
Myth #3 – Since most victims are older, financial abuse is a small matter. Some may believe that elder financial abuse is a minor issue since many seniors have limited income and dwindling assets. According to AARP, senior Americans fall victim to $3 billion a year in financial crimes. The AARP also reports that the actual numbers are much higher due to the fact that many of the elder victims don’t report crimes against them due to embarrassment. Many of the victims are afraid to report the crime if the abuser is a family member or other caregiver. Often the senior fears retaliation if they make a report. When a senior is dependent upon someone for food, daily assistance or a place to live they may feel disempowered. Some abusers threaten to put their victims into a nursing home if they complain about their treatment.
What to do if you suspect elder abuse. Report suspected elder abuse to law enforcement immediately. Caregivers of aging adults in California, whether you receive payment or not, you are a mandated reporter. The law requires you to report actual or suspected elder abuse by telephone and file a written report within two business days. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. The abuse should be reported to the Adult Protective Services office or local law enforcement.
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