Elder Abuse––Could Someone You Know Be a Victim?

Elder Abuse––Could Someone You Know Be a Victim?

Courtesy DATCU Credit Union, Denton County LIVING WELL Magazine

Denton County is the ninth largest county in the state of Texas having increased in population by 53% over the last decade. With this growth trend expected to continue, we will face the challenges of an aging population. This means more retirees and unfortunately an increase in mental disorders and diseases including dementia and other cognitive impairments. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, there are an average of 2.1 million reported cases of abuse of the elderly each year. Sadly, it is more common than we think. As one of the largest financial institutions in Denton County, we often identify those who would take advantage of our aging citizens. We see financial fraud, scams, breaches of trust, and even elder abuse. It is heartbreaking. These abuses are frequently at the hands of trusted caregivers, friends, and even family. It is so important that we as a community be aware of the signs of elder abuse. Through greater awareness, we can help protect and educate our more vulnerable friends and neighbors. Some common signs of elder abuse include:

  • Physical injuries, neglect, and behavioral/emotional changes
  • A caregiver who refuses to leave
  • Unexplained social isolation of an elderly individual
  • Unpaid bills when there is someone supposed to be paying them
  • An elderly individual(s) living below their financial means
  • Significant or suspicious changes in an older person’s will
  • Large unexplained or more frequent withdrawals of cash
  • Increased use of credit cards
  • Adding someone new to financial accounts or to credit cards

The sad but sobering truth is that many of our elderly are reluctant to report that they are victims of abuse. Why? Because they fear punishment from the abuser, the abuser is a child or family member, or they simply don’t know who to approach for help. In my humble opinion, we have a duty and a responsibility to educate them and ourselves. There is help available! If you are an aging individual or the family member of an elderly person, here are some immediate steps that can be taken:

  • Educate yourself on ALL the signs of elder abuse. The above are just some of the more common signs.
  • If you hire someone for elder care, do your homework and make sure they are screened with criminal background checks.
  • Never provide sensitive information over the phone unless you personally know to whom you are speaking. This includes social security numbers, credit card information, financial account information, etc.
  • Don’t be intimidated into making large purchases or investments without consulting someone that you know and trust.
  • Always shred sensitive information including financial records, tax documents, receipts, and utility bills. They contain sensitive information that could lead to abuse.
  • Never sign complicated documents without first consulting someone you trust such as an attorney or family member. This is very important!
  • Finally, be added to the National Do Not Call Registry. This may help stop those unwanted calls for “prizes, loans, and investments” that are frequently scams. Call 888-382-1222 to be added to the registry.

If you believe someone you know is a victim and in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If you suspect elder abuse but not immediate danger, please call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or go to www.txabusehotline.org. Remember too that those with dementia and cognitive diseases are at a greater risk for elder abuse. As a credit union, we see more financial directed elder abuse. With an approximate 264,000 annualcases of financial exploitation (reported), it is a problem that is going to increase as the “boomer generation” continues to age. We see it every day and we want to make a difference by educating the folks in this community. Please join me in passing this article along to your friends, family, and neighbors. If you ever need financial help or advice, it would be our pleasure to serve you. Join us today! Dale Kimble, Chief Executive Officer of DATCU Credit Union may be reached at 866-387-8585.