One in thirteen senior citizens in New York alone is the victim of elder abuse. A 2010 study on the prevalence of elder abuse states that for every reported case, 24 cases go unreported. Often, senior citizens will not report to the authorities that they are being abused because they are embarrassed or feel humiliated to do so. While in other cases, there are those who may be unable to report that they are being abused because they are suffering from some form of dementia that inhibits their ability to communicate to others about the abuse. Whatever the case may be, the abusers are counting on the facts that allow them to continue the abuse for long periods of time. Whether it is physical or financial abuse, or both, it will take the community as a whole to recognize the signs and report any suspected abuse to the authorities.
Signs Leading to Possible Elder Abuse
There are typical signs you can spot that will indicate possible elder abuse. Some are obvious such as the physical or mental signs of abuse indicated by bruising as a result of beatings; wasting as a result of withholding food, medicine, etc.; and there are less obvious signs of financial abuse where the abuser, typically a caregiver, is either extorting or stealing money from the elder individual who has been left in their care.
In 2014, the Stoughton, Massachusetts police department arrested a caregiver for what they said was the worst case of elder abuse they had ever seen. The police found 75 year old Marie Bois Belfort living in a basement bedroom at the home of her caregiver, Sandra Lucien, that appeared to be the equivalent of a cell with no heating. Belfort was malnourished and had open bed sores from the neglect she received at the hands of Lucien. Lucien, who was a registered nurse, claimed that she took Belfort in because there was no one else to take care of her. Lucien was ultimately arrested and charged with elder abuse.
Before his death in 2014, at the age of 93, Mickey Rooney became an advocate for senior citizen abuse because of his own personal experience with it. Rooney testified before Congress and shared his story about how he had suffered his abuse in silence because of the humiliation of coming forward. Rooney testified that it was a family member who was also his caregiver who not only took over his personal finances, but also withheld food and medicine from him.
The Mickey Rooney story is repeated again and again amongst senior citizens of much lesser means. This is why it is extremely important that family members with elder parents should screen potential caregivers with care. If it is a family member that is the abuser, anyone else having contact with the elder individual should be alert to any signs of possible abuse and report it.
In the case of Katsu and Charles Bradley, help came too late after their hired caregiver took everything they owned, leaving them impoverished and homeless. See complete story at NBC.com.
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