Elder Abuse

Submitted by Tribute2010 on February 11, 2014 - 2:12pm
Exploring a difficult topic

unhappy senior

With the onset of illness or accident it is inevitable that at some point most of us will become dependent on others for our survival. Scary as it is we look faithfully to our children and relatives or other trusted individuals to hold power of attorney (POA) when we are no longer capable of handling our affairs. But it gets more scary. Along with the silver tsunami of the greying Boomers we will see an influx of older adults who will potentially become victimized. This might include, physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse mostly directed from close family members. While society focuses on child abuse it falls far behind when it comes to responding to elder abuse (Gleckman).

Unfortunately, for many older adults (up to 150,000 in Ontario) the POA document is too often granted to distrustful, negligent and fraudulent attorneys often resulting in messy disputes with family and relatives. In the process grantors have been defrauded and left penniless. Mary Martin Sharma who heads a seniors advocacy group notes a false sense of entitlement by many family members. For example, a common scenario occurs when adult children move into their ailing aging parent's house. As time goes by the parent needs more and more care so the adult child feels that the parent can't manage anymore and the parent ends up in a nursing home. In the meantime the adult child has permanently moved into the parent's house.

Another example is an adult child who used the power of attorney given to him by his parent to sell his parent's house and put the money towards a better house for himself. These examples may be indicative of a more subtle kind of devaluing that happens in some families. In a conversation frail members are sometimes addressed using third person tense which might exclude their participation. Even in these dismal emotional climates a senior may not have any awareness that he or she has been victimized. If there is awareness that something's just not right he or she could be reluctant to report for fear of embarrassment, shame or even worse that the children could get into trouble. If it is a nursing home there could be a fear of reprisal from supervising home staff.

Service scams such as the bogus charities, get rich quick schemes, miracle drug and diet cures often take advantage of our seniors' generosity and kindness or they may appeal to someone looking for a quick easy solution for discomfort or loneliness. If you're a vulnerable older adult living at home and feel hesitant to ask questions, you could be victimized by scammers who come to your door or contact you via telephone or your computer in order to trap you. Over the last few years I have entertained numerous scams about my furnace, my rug, an internet or phone deal, a computer virus, a Nigerian money transfer, a free Caribbean trip, my driveway or roof, or a prize, etc. Now I'm waiting for the one about my grandson who calls me from jail and needs money to get out and pay for the fine. I hesitate to converse with these people who approach me with their fake charities, or more often with their personal development programs that many people believe will "fix" something that's wrong with them. Nobody needs fixing. Elder abuse really does scare me. While vulnerable, exploited children stand out in the cold selling two dollar chocolate bars, many frail and mostly invisible elderly shut-ins become quiet victims of abuse.

I've gathered a few simple safety tips to increase awareness of potential fraud.

  • Stay active, maintain contact and don't become isolated
  • Use automatic deposit for your cheques and pay your bills automatically too
  • Get legal advice for POA arrangements
  • Grant POA to only those you trust
  • Attend seminars and educate yourself and share concerns with your friends and professional who care for you.
  • Do not disclose any credit card, bank or personal information to strangers or persons you do not know or trust.