seniors can defend against abuse
she was in her mid-20s and married, her folks bailed out the couple during
the husband's frequent bouts with unemployment.
she was in her early 40s, the graying mom and dad were almost entirely
supporting their daughter and her two children.
the parents are on a fixed income, and the drain has become financial as
well as emotional.
mother, now in her 70s, likens it to "a hostage situation" and
says it took years and the moral support of other parents in similar
situations before she could bring herself to stop sending cash.
is holding a certain power by holding the children," she said.
woman used to lead Tough Love, an
reality, health officials say, it is the seniors who end up living like
who find their pocketbooks drained by adult children represent one of the
most prominent forms of elder abuse. It's increasing, too, as layoffs,
divorce and skyrocketing housing costs send more adult children back home.
are seeing more of the white collar people who have a sense that they are
entitled to their inheritance - and they want it now," said Augusta
Clarke, assistant state's attorney for
adult children may simply borrow money again and again to pay off credit
card debt; some go as far as taking over their parents' power of attorney
and eventually their home.
prevalent are adults who neglect or physically or verbally abuse elderly
parents or friends.
DuPage, a not-for-profit group aimed at raising community awareness of
quality-of-life issues, wants seniors to know help is out there. A free
forum Thursday will offer seniors tips on how to break free of their
children and help neighbors recognize when to step in.
suggestion is to call Northeast Illinois Area Agency on Aging anonymous
hotline at (800) 528-2000 or the Illinois Department of Aging senior
hotline at (800) 252-8966.
even the victim knows who called, so there is protection," said Mary
Persinger, DuPage County Senior Services administrator.
seven minutes an elderly person is abused, neglected or exploited in
statistics show the incidents of elder abuse are on the increase, and as
the Baby Boomers enter old age, the incidents will be even higher,"
said Bette Lawrence-Water, Healthy DuPage initiatives director.
special victims unit investigates 50 or 60 complaints at nursing homes in
the county annually. A little fewer than half of the complaints result in
best way to avoid having a relative become a victim is to visit the
nursing home at different times of day and ask to see the Illinois
Department of Aging's survey of the facility. Every nursing home is
required to keep the previous year's report on hand, Clarke said.
special victims unit also helps seniors abused by mentally ill children by
offering a mental health court that offers therapy instead of jail time.
The court was created because attorneys kept finding abused seniors who
refused to press charges if it meant putting their children behind bars.
and health experts expect elder abuse cases to continue to increase as the
country ages, seniors live longer and rates of dementia increase. Already,
the number of abuse cases increase about 5 percent a year, said Erik
Weakly, regional coordinator for the Northeastern Illinois Area Agency on
the problem gets more attention than in the past, the number of seniors
abused far exceeds the number helped.
say it's 20 years behind child abuse and domestic abuse in terms of
awareness," Weakly said.
people don't recognize it without bruises, but physical abuse accounts for
less than 10 percent of elder abuse.
the neglect can be as innocent as a child locking a senior with
Alzheimer's in a room to keep them from wandering off. Or it can be as
shocking as the case involving John Lear of
May, he laid newspapers under his 75-year-old mother to absorb her waste
as she lay on the floor of her garbage-strewn condominium for days. She
was unable to get up unaided because of health problems. Lear was
convicted of neglect after his mother called a state-run senior housing
facility to look for an opening.
and verbal abuse often force seniors to abandon their homes. Some trade
spacious homes for tiny apartments just so they have landlords that can
keep their children out using occupancy rules, health officials said.
Family Services offers temporary housing in
seniors out of their homes is a last resort. Officials use caregiver
stress maintenance programs, adult day-care centers and in-home respite
say the vast majority of elder abuse involves money - be it a senior
supporting a child, a child secretly draining a bank account or scam
artists preying on seniors.
are likely targets for telephone solicitors or others who offer to do such
seasonal work as driveway black-topping or chimney cleaning. The best way
for seniors to protect themselves is to have housework done only by
referral and to never give out private information on the phone unless the
senior initiated the call.
say seniors are much more likely to be robbed by friends or family
can have innocuous starts, such as when a relative is given power of
attorney. The senior may not realize a problem until checks start bouncing
or bills arrive for outlandish goods the senior didn't buy.
exploitation happens everywhere," Weakly said. "It doesn't
matter if the senior has $750 in Social Security or $7 million."
county senior services department offers a money management program that
has volunteers oversee finances for seniors victimized by greedy family
members or caretakers.
also report mysterious withdrawals or strangers who escort seniors to
withdraw out money. Much of the financial abuse remains hidden until
seniors end up broke, asking for a handout themselves.
hard for many seniors to admit they're being victimized by family members,
the former Tough Love leader says.
of the things we go through, we don't discuss with neighbors over the back
Experts say seniors most often hurt by family