Elderly abuse a big problem
The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates as many as 10 percent of elderly Americans have been abused by a caregiver.
NCEA also estimates just one of every 14 elder abuse cases is reported to authorities.
“A lot of people don’t realize the extent of what’s going on,” said Marlin Peterson, criminal investigator with the Colorado Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Peterson gave a presentation Wednesday in Craig about investigating elderly abuse.
Officials from Moffat County Social Services, The Memorial Hospital and various officials from throughout Northwest Colorado attended the presentation at the Public Safety Center.
Elderly abuse cases present a unique set of problems for law enforcement officials.
Part of the problem for investigators can be the victims themselves because they don’t want to admit they’re being abused.
If the abuser is a relative, the problem becomes magnified.
“They feel what happens in the family, stays in the family,” Peterson said.
Victims also are scared they’ll be abandoned if their caregiver is jailed, or worse, if a caregiver is merely questioned and set free, Peterson said victims fear retribution.
Dede Huston, a caseworker with Moffat County Social Services, said that in her experience, communicating with elderly abuse victims can be a challenge.
“It’s important to be patient and try to get to the root of the problem,” Huston said after Peterson’s presentation.
Huston was one of a few Moffat County caseworkers to attend Wednesday’s presentation.
Prosecuting elder abuse cases also can be hard, Peterson said.
Elderly victims may not be alive by the time a case goes to trial, or, their mental and physical condition could deteriorate before their case gets to court.
Plus, in cases of neglect and financial exploitation, it can take years to prove a case and send it to trial.
Peterson also provided the group with warning signs for financial exploitation and neglect.
One of the tell-tale signs of neglect, Peterson said, is if the caregiver is clean and well-groomed while the person in his or her care has poor personal hygiene.
For financial exploitation, people should watch for strange transactions, such as draining bank accounts.
If people think they see a case of elderly abuse, they should call the police or Adult Services, Peterson said.
In Moffat County, adult services are part of Social Services.
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