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April 20, 2011

Determining Elder Abuse is Not an Exact Science


Determining elder abuse is not an exact science
By Kim Lamb Gregory
April 18, 2011

Elder abuse is on the rise in Ventura County due to a number of factors, according to Ventura County Adult Protective Services deputy director Linda Henderson.
"It's due to the baby boomer population, people living longer and elderly people living by themselves more often," Henderson said. "It's also the economy. We've got family members moving back in with elderly parents. I think that puts lots of stresses on families."
Adult Protective Services investigates any reports of elder abuse and neglect in Ventura County. Between July 2009 and February 2010, it found instances of abuse and neglect an average of 323 times a month. (Some cases lasted more than one month, and would figure into the average for the next month, as well.) In that same period of 2010-11, it found an average of 381 instances a month, an increase of 18 percent.
Most of those involved financial elder abuse, according to the agency.
Elder law attorneys agree elder abuse is a serious problem, but cautioned that the rise in elder abuse also means an increase in the number of false claims.
"We've been getting calls from people saying their parents have been abused because they have been put into assisted living," said elder abuse attorney Mitchell Karasov, who handles cases in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Ventura elder law attorney Gregory Johnson says he gets about 10 calls a week suggesting abuse.
"Ninety percent of the calls do not result in cases," Johnson said. "It's usually a case of miscommunication."
Certainly, many claims of financial elder abuse are legitimate, according to Karasov, but sometimes it's just a lack of education. A family member who doesn't realize how expensive it can be to care for a parent may accuse a caregiver of taking money, he said, until they understand what it actually costs.
"People not having all the facts in certain situations may be claiming elder abuse," Karasov said.
In other cases, a sibling's motives may not be as pure, he said.
"What I'm seeing is people calling up and saying it's elder abuse sometimes when it's to their benefit," Karasov said.
Siblings sometimes figure if they can show that an adult sibling caring for a parent is abusing them by, for example, spending too much on caregiving, they can get the caregiver sibling disinherited.
"It goes from Thanksgiving, kiss, kiss everybody loves each other to, 'Wait a minute; you're spending my inheritance on Mom and Dad,' " Karasov said.



© 2011 Ventura County Star.


Abridged


SOURCE:    The VCStars


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