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June 21, 2010

94 Percent of Elder Abuse Cases Go Unreported (TN. USA)

Family members commit most abuse


BY DESSISLAVA YANKOVA


The News Examiner


June 20, 2010


It is crucial to report elderly abuse because it helps authorities save victims. That’s one issue Gallatin Police Department Sgt. Bill Vahldiek emphasized at the Gallatin Senior Citizens Center in observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Tuesday, June 15.


Only 1 in 23, about 4 percent, of elderly-abuse cases are reported, according to the latest data from the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.


“It really helps the investigation if someone who notices the abuse reports it,” Vahldiek told seniors. “Because a lot of times, the victim is not going to call because they’re afraid.”


In many cases, the victims live with someone close who controls their access to the outside world, along with finances, meals, medication and everything else.


“They don’t know what’s going on,” Vahldiek said. “They know it’s a close friend or a family member who’s doing it to them, and they don’t want to believe it’s happening. And they start blaming themselves, and they don’t ever report it. And that’s when being a friend becomes so important.”


Most abusers are family members


Because more than two-thirds of perpetrators are family members, outsiders rarely notice any alarming signs of wrongdoing and the abuse continues, the commission on aging and disability reports.


“Whenever we suspect elderly abuse, we’ll talk to the neighbors, anybody around, who’s not necessarily direct family unless the family’s reporting it,” Vahldiek said. “The family would know best, but often the family are the ones doing it, so we need to rely on friends.”


Friends and neighbors would usually notice if a senior has strange bruises, cuts and bumps, or if the senior’s normal day-to-day routine changes.


“I’m talking about all of a sudden they’re not taking care of themselves; they’re not cleaning up after themselves; they’re overmedicated, undermedicated; they’ve got medical conditions that nobody has taken them to the doctor to see,” said the officer, who moved to Tennessee to watch over his aging great-aunt and grandmother.


Incidents can take place at elders’ homes or retirement facilities, where reported cases also have revealed workers “dragging patients by the hair or by the arm.”


“That’s flat-out abuse and assault,” the sergeant said. “(Abusers) can be criminally charged for that and they can be put away.”


Abuse includes neglect


Although involuntarily rough-handling, grabbing, pushing and shoving might not appear to be serious, such action can hurt elders and should be prevented.


“Grandchildren are the worst about that, but they don’t really intend to, especially when they’re 8 or 9 years old,” Vahldiek said. “Parents need to get them straightened out.”


Neglect is another type of abuse that elders experience. Dehydration, malnutrition, bed sores from improper care and lack of physical activity when “shut in a room with a TV” can all be considered neglect, Vahldiek said.


And the list does not stop there, senior center Director Nona Yates said.


“A lot of seniors are going without things they really need like the interaction with people,” Yates said. “(Caregivers) are not taking proper care of them, checking on them and taking them to the doctor.


“I quit my job and moved in with my parents to take care of them till both of them passed. And people just don’t do that anymore. They don’t take care of their own. And they need to realize they’ll be seniors one day, and who is going to take care of them?”


Beware of con artists


Vahldiek also warned citizens against financial abuse through fake telemarketers. He advised elders against giving out any personal information, such as Social Security and drivers’ license or bank account numbers over the phone, Internet or by mail in response to one-time, act-now offers, lotteries and giveaways.


“Con artists are almost as much an expert in human behavior and psychology as a psychologist,” the sergeant said. “If it was a real lottery, you’d already know that you’ve won. If they’re a legitimate business, they’re not going to ask for all that up front or care if you take a few days to check them out with the Better Business Bureau.”



SOURCE:   The Tennessean
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