Abuse comes in all forms, and victims can be of all ages – including the elderly.
Unfortunately, an older age does not exclude someone from being taken advantage of by people with cruel intentions. The senior citizens’ dependency and frailty often make them vulnerable targets for situations of abuse such as financial exploitation, physical abuse, sexual abuse and psychological abuse.
Moreover, this abuse is occurring right in our own backyards. Pennsylvania has the fifth largest elderly population in the United States, and in Bucks County specifically there has been an increasing number of reported cases about financial exploitation among the elderly. Even worse, these crimes are being committed by the elderly victim’s family members.
Today, we are discussing the statistics behind elderly abuse, sharing some of the policies in place to help protect the elderly, and encouraing you to do your part in protecting your loved ones.
The Growing Statistic on Elderly Abuse
Recent statistics reveal that one out of ten seniors has been subjected to some abuse or neglect. Studies show that elderly Americans are more vulnerable to these abuses because of physical and cognitive deficiencies and social isolation. Another study supported this data stating that people with dementia have 50% higher risk for such violations.
When looking at the statistics in Pennsylvania specifically, elder abuse has doubled over the last decade. According to Drew Wilburne, spokesperson of Department of Aging, cases of elder abuse rose significantly from 13,444 cases between 2007-2008 to a shocking 28,632 cases between 2016-2017 in the state.
The top two types of abuse identified were financial exploitation and caregiver neglect.
In Bucks County specifically, one out of three elderly abuse allegations involve financial exploitation.
Despite these rising figures, the true extent of this type of abuse is still under-reported and vastly unstudied. In fact, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the knowledge about elder abuse is behind by two decades compared to data on child abuse or domestic violence. These figures are still expected to rise in the coming years.
The Case of Albert Weaver Senior
A nurse described Albert Weaver Sr.’s case as the worst physical neglect she had handled in her career. Hospital documents show that the victim, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, died of deep, infected bedsores that led to septic shock, urinary tract infection, infection in his toenails, severe malnutrition, and dehydration. Hospital personnel also found a vast amount of bruises and cuts on the 84-year-old’s body.
If this horrible neglect wasn’t sad enough, what makes this case even worse is that the man’s suffering came at the hand of his own family members.
Specifically, his 52-year-old son, Albert Weaver Jr., his 49-year-old daughter-in-law Virginia Weaver, his 26-year-old granddaughter Amanda Weaver, and Amanda’s 33-year-old boyfriend, James Dorney were the ones who committed the neglect.
All four have been charged with neglect of care of a dependent person and reckless endangering, and all but the victim’s son were charged with theft by unlawful taking.
Upon reviewing Weaver Sr.’s bank records after his death, authorities discovered that his family spent $147,000 of the victims money over the three previous years. Some items and services that were purchased include a satellite TV subscription, alcohol safety school, a car loan and insurance, traffic and traffic tickets, and a loan payment. It is very clear that these purchases did not benefit the elderly man, indicating the money was used for the caretakers’ own purposes.
Efforts to Stop Elderly Abuse
The alarming numbers of elder abuse cases have led agencies across different industries to conduct initiatives to prevent, and ideally stop, elderly abuse. The financial, healthcare, legal and social service industries have been joining hands to help the senior citizens receive the protection they deserve.
The Department Banking and Securities in Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of the protection of the elderly against these financial abuses.
According to their spokesman Ed Novak, this department has conducted 37 training sessions for 3,000 people across financial institutions to teach them how to prevent, recognize and respond to any suspected economic exploitation against the elderly. Through the Senior Safe program, the trained personnel will be able to identify the red flags of elder financial abuse.
The department has also reached out to the other industries, including those in the medical field, social workers, cosmetologists, pharmacists, lawyers and accountants.
Additionally, Bucks County Consumer Protection has a wing called the Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force, where bank personnel can report any suspected financial exploitation of the elderly.
What You Can Do to Prevent Elder Abuse
In addition to the efforts these agencies are putting in place, help is also from all of us. If you suspect any situation that involves elderly abuse, we urge you to report it immediately to your local Area Agency on Aging.
All of these calls are considered confidential. Trained staff will handle the situation once exploitation is confirmed. Should the agency find that there is no abuse; the agency will still assist the family should they need other services.
Any information that can help prevent elder abuse will significantly contribute to the cause of trying to spare our seniors any unnecessary pain and suffering. Many times when it comes to financial abuse, cases are reported far too late, making it difficult for authorities to recover what was lost.
Unfortunately, since many cases of financial exploitation against elders are committed by family members or caretakers, there are a large amount of undocumented cases. If you have any concerns, we encourage you to speak up.
Our seniors deserve the same love and respect as everyone else. No one deserves to be maltreated or taken advantage of. Although efforts have been made to address this kind of abuse, there is always more that can be done.
If you have concerns about your loved one’s care or situation, we welcome you to contact our team for legal advice. You can contact us directly at 800-609-7577 to request a free consultation and learn more about how you can help protect your loved ones from further abuse.