Sgt. John Forgay: The invisible crime — elder abuse
May 25, 2011
Recently, the noted actor Mickey Rooney, at the age of 90, testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
In his testimony, Rooney said, "I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated. Above all, I felt helpless."
On this occasion, he was the voice for older Americans who are victimized physically, emotionally and financially every day.
It is estimated that one out of every seven older Americans have suffered this fate, although that number may be low due to the reluctance or inability to report such abuse.
Rooney reported that despite having counselors and advisors over the years, he had been "fleeced" out of his money by someone close to him, all the while being told that it was for his "own good." This is a predicament you would not expect for someone as well known as Rooney.
A recent article from AARP indicated that 2010 statistics estimate that $2.6 billion in "savings and investments were lost, mishandled, squandered or stolen" from this population, an older population that will grow from 13 percent presently to 20 percent by 2030.
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Elder abuse is an invisible crime and the perpetrators "hide in plain sight" in a variety of forms. They are family members, caregivers, advisors and friends, just to name a few.
The older generation was raised to trust others, and often when they discover that they have been victimized, especially financially, the damage is done. It becomes difficult, due to embarrassment, pride, confusion and sometimes fear, to ask for help.
When the abuse involves neglect, emotional or physical mistreatment, many continue to suffer the abuse in silence.
They are segregated from having contact with others who may recognize their mistreatment, often being isolated in their own homes. Their abusers control every aspect of their lives, including their health, even to the point of denying them proper nourishment resulting in malnutrition.
They are verbally harassed about their age and told that they cannot make decisions on their own.
This abuse can also involve violence as another means of control, through beatings and even sexual abuse.
This invisible crime is a stain on our society that must be recognized and eliminated.
The elderly have an absolute right to be safe, maintain their dignity, and be protected from those who would harm them.
To that end, it is the responsibility of everyone to be watchful for the indications of abuse or neglect to help prevent this crime.
In Colorado, there is statutory authority for the formation of an Adult Protection Team through the Department of Social Services.
The Moffat County Adult Protection Team is comprised of a combination of agencies that work with at-risk adults.
The purpose of the team is to facilitate interagency cooperation regarding available services. The team also reviews procedures developed for the investigation of reports of mistreatment or self-neglect and the provisions of protective services that are available.
Also, community education and awareness is a team goal.
Anyone aware or suspecting a crime against an at-risk adult is encouraged to report the information to the Moffat County Department of Social Services or local law enforcement.