Articles Posted in Reporting Elder Abuse

senior_financial_troubles-300x200Identity theft continues to arise as a harsh reality for millions of Americans each year. In fact, according to the Justice Department, more than 11 million Americans fall victim to some form of identity theft/fraud each year. That accounts for more than $20 billion in lost money, with the average injury to victims at more than $4,000.

Elders may be at an increased risk of becoming victims of identity theft because according to information provided by the FTC, “Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to this crime because their personal information may be easily accessible by numerous individuals.”

Unfortunately for elders, particularly those in nursing homes, this does ring true. Personal and sensitive information may be attained by those with bad intentions. Therefore, it is important that elders and their loved ones keep a close eye on personal information, including social security numbers, driver’s licenses and credit cards. These identifying numbers and accounts can be accessed easily, and drain an elder of savings in some cases. In others debt in an elder’s name may be accrued.

Elder-Abuse-dreamstime_m_28140354-300x200Elder abuse has been called an epidemic and is viewed by many as a national crisis, for good reason. As many as five million elders in the United States are abused, neglected, or exploited each year and 90% of these cases are perpetrated by family members or trusted advisors. The National Center of Elder Abuse has said that only one of every 14 cases of elder abuse is reported, while others put the number as high as one out of every 23 cases. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm.

If you’re like me, those statistics are simply staggering, and we cannot continue to ignore this problem. But, how can we work to stop elder abuse? Well, there are actually a number of ways you can help in the fight to end elder abuse. Here are three ways you can help today:

1. Let your legislators know that you are an advocate for nursing home reform legislation. This would involve sitting down and simply stating your position to your elected official in writing. It is their job to represent the voice of his/her constituents. You can find your legislators here. Let them know that you find the statistics alarming, and that you support measures to help reform the nursing home industry to prevent additional abuse to elders.

mandated-reporting-300x213-300x213While Mandated Reporters are required to report elder abuse within 48 hours and know who to report the abuse to, many non-mandated reporters suspect Elder Abuse, but don’t know where to turn. The general rule of thumb is to always err on the side of caution when suspecting elder abuse. Unfortunately, if unreported, elder abuse often escalates, and all too often the results are tragic. If you suspect an elder you know is being abused, report it immediately. You may be saving the health, assets, or even the life of an elder who may be too afraid to report the abuse themselves.

There are numerous ways to report suspected elder abuse, and it is probably much easier than you think. Furthermore you will be protected from criminal or civil liability, so do not let the fear of retribution prevent you from ever reporting abuse.

If you suspect an elder is being abused in any capacity, while in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home; report the incident to both the Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the California Department of Public Health. You should also consider reporting to Adult Protective Services Agency.

In its simplest form, financial elder abuse involves taking money or property from an elderly person with the intent to defraud them. It is a growing problem in California given the state’s increasing senior population. The signs of financial elder abuse can be difficult to see. Though the presence of any of the following signs associated with financial elder abuse is not absolute evidence of abuse, it should prompt further investigation:

• Elder is withdrawn.

• Elder is confused and tends to be more forgetful than usual.

The use of physical and chemical restraints in California nursing homes is sometimes a necessary way of protecting patients from injuring themselves and others. When used excessively and, more importantly, without consent, the practice becomes outright abusive. Often this method is used not simply to protect the patient, but rather to make a staff member’s job easier. Overuse of restraints is exacerbated by the growing number of understaffed nursing facilities.

Physical restraints are used to keep patients from wandering around the facility, a potential hazard for the patient and others. A nursing home is required by law to have the resident’s consent before using a physical restraint. Symptoms of physical restraints include sores or bruising on the arms and legs, usually on the ankles and wrists.

Chemical restraints involve the administering of powerful psychotropic drugs to sedate and confine the patient by taking away his or her cognitive abilities. These drugs are not permitted under any circumstances unless the nursing care facility outlines a legitimate medical reason for their use and further provides the frequency and dosage. Because most people are not familiar with the side effects of psychotropic drugs, it can be more difficult to identify chemical restraints than physical restraints.

We’ve previously chronicled the rise of the grandparent scam, wherein a telephone scammer poses as a relative or grandchild and calls an elderly person, citing an emergency and asking him or her to send money or account information immediately.

So, how do these scams work? Frequently, a caller will make contact and when the target answers the phone, the caller will respond with: “Hi, Grandma” or “Hi, Grandpa,”3 in hopes to establish a connection that will confuse the elderly phone victim and make him or her more likely to share their financial information or wire money to the fraudster. These con artists usually concoct a scheme where they pose as a grandchild and may say something along the lines of, “My car broke down and in order to get it fixed and come home, I need money,” or may pretend to need bail money, or that they’ve been mugged. Sensing an emergency, the elder may supply their personal financial information to the caller, unknowingly playing into the hands of the con-artists.

Unfortunately, this scheme is sometimes extended, as the personal information of the victim is shared with other scam organizations who may place follow-up calls, promising that your money can be returned if you follow a few steps. Many of these fraudulent caller organizations work in tandem to take advantage of elderly citizens. The sad news is that in San Diego and around the country, telemarketing and call scams are on the rise, and prove to be a real danger for the financial stability of America’s elder population.

Call center scams wherein callers identify themselves as IRS officials seeking allegedly unpaid taxes from call victims have been ongoing for years. This scam is particularly devastating to elders as many individuals have fallen victim to this prevalent and heinous act of financial elder abuse.

irsscam1Fortunately, 70 people in New Delhi, India were recently arrested in relation to the IRS phone scam, as reported by ABC. According to the ABC report, the scam was averaging about $150,000 a day in returns—and some $55 million in one year—for just one call center, as con artists abroad targeted Americans by phone.

Thankfully, many of the operation’s ringleaders were arrested by Indian police officials, and are likely to face charges of extortion, impersonation, and violations of a host of Indian information technology laws. In addition, at least 600 people are being questioned in relation to these call center scams, after a raid on the center yielded a massive amount of potential evidence, including hundreds of hard drives, hard disks, servers, and other equipment. As the result, Indian police have said that many more of these scammers are likely to be charged with various crimes.

According to a recent report from The New York Times, taking nursing home abuse claims to court has just become easier for residents and their families. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, an agency within the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, issued new rules regarding a longstanding practice wherein nursing homes stipulated in their resident contracts that any disputes or claims of abuse would be resolved in arbitration. The Federal government’s new rules now allow for nursing home residents to take their claims to court, making it far easier to seek meaningful justice.

2The U.S. nursing home industry is a massive and lucrative one, particularly in Southern California. Additionally, a vast number of nursing home residents rely on government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare to subsidize their care. As such, those nursing homes receiving their own share of Federal Aid to support their programming can no longer contractually bind complainants into private arbitration to resolve their claims. This new rule will go into effect as soon as November 2016, paving a new and more feasible avenue for Southern California nursing home abuse victims to take their claims to court. It’s important to note, however, that the rule will apply only to those moving into federally aided nursing homes after the November 2016 start date.

As projections for nursing home resident growth climb—particularly in high-populated metropolitan areas, such as, San Diego— it’s especially important that governmental change to nursing home policies are introduced. Some sources report that nearly a third of all licensed nursing homes in the U.S. have been cited for federal safety standard violations. Now that new rules have been introduced regarding elder abuse lawsuits and complaints, victims finally have fair recourse under the law.

cheryl_sherrell_arrest_1476753331438_48253754_ver1.0_640_480The Washington Post recently highlighted a tragic story of elder abuse that took place in San Diego— the story of a 90-year-old woman whose caretaker squatted in her client’s home and rented out rooms in it against her will. The victim, Fran Breslauer moved out of her home shortly after her husband’s passing, only to have a trusted caretaker, Cheryl Sherrell take over the home and refuse to leave.

This story of San Diego elder abuse worsens, as more details of Sherrell’s misconduct surface. According to reports, Sherrell had been hired as an aid for Fran Breslauer’s husband, Alan, during his final months, at their self-built home near the San Diego State University campus. The Breslauers lived there for six decades, only to be maliciously taken advantage of by the aid hired to nurse Alan Breslauer on his deathbed. Not long after she was hired, however, Sherrell was fired for improper conduct. Though she was provided with the appropriate 30-day notice of termination, Sherrell refused to leave the property even after Alan Breslauer died.

In a further disturbing turn of events, Sherrell shifted towards violence while she squatted in the Breslauer home. She threw Fran Breslauer’s car keys at her and adjusted the water heater to its hottest setting, so that Fran suffered burns from the scorching water temperature. Finally, a few months after Sherrell’s squatting began, she was issued an official restraining order and was removed from the house. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

ISE_webbanner_768x180It is an unfortunate fact that elder abuse is a common and growing problem in San Diego and throughout the United States. Abuse of the elderly can take many forms, ranging from neglect and abandonment to physical, verbal, financial, and even sexual abuse. Fortunately, professionals in health care are constantly working towards new breakthroughs in treatment and the prevention of abuse in the elderly population. It’s true that new research and techniques are changing the face of convalescent care every day.

As the population of elders in San Diego continues to grow, it’s also encouraging to see the elder abuse epidemic be drawn out of the shadows and into the light, so we can all learn to recognize symptoms of elder abuse, and report any suspicions. One such example of shining a light on elder abuse prevention will be coming to Southern California next month.

On September 15, 2016 the 2-day USC Judith D. Tamkin International Symposium on Elder Abuse will welcome “researchers, academics, physicians, nurses, and psychologists” to participate in a weekend committed to “Closing the Research Gaps and Moving the Field of Elder Abuse Forward.”