World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.
The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.
In addition, WEAAD is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
You may not think that elder abuse is a big problem in western Colorado, but it is a huge problem everywhere in the world.
At the Area Agency on Aging, we frequently encounter older adults or their family members who have concerns about potential scams or even worse, actual abuse and exploitation. This often occurs within the family or by trusted friends or professionals.
A few months ago, I received a call from a concerned family member stating that her father was giving large sums of money to his paid caregiver.
This is a huge red flag; Region 10 pays for the agency to provide this care and paid caregivers should never accept any kind of gift from clients. I called the agency and requested that the caregiver be removed from duty and an investigation conducted.
Adult protective services and local law enforcement was contacted, and an investigation began. Unfortunately, we all have the right to make bad decisions and that includes giving money away.
This individual was initially very angry that someone “reported” him. I gave him a few weeks to settle down and paid him a visit to explain my role as an advocate for older adults.
I explained that even though he is fortunate enough to have the financial resources to help someone in this situation; the next person he/she takes advantage of may not.
It turns out that this caregiver convinced this kind gentleman that her boyfriend did not pay the rent so she would be evicted, that was the first $250.
The next week she had a flat tire so she could not come to work until she could get new tires; you guessed it — $500 for new tires. By the time we put an end to it, he had given her more than $6,000 and some of his late wife’s jewelry went missing.
The story ends with this gentleman and I becoming friends over a very sad situation. He was lonely and this “wolf in sheep’s clothing” took advantage of him.
In the end he was embarrassed and it created some major discomfort for him and his family. My call to action for those reading this is:
If you are an older adult be careful about how much information you put out there about yourself.
Social media is a great way to stay connected but its also an easy way for the shady people to tap into your vulnerabilities. If you have older adults in your life watch out for them, ask questions about their friends, encourage them to ask questions if things do not seem quite right.
Above all, remind them that they must always take care of themselves first, physically and financially. If it sounds too good to be true-it is.
Amy Rowan is the care coordination manager for Tri-County Health Network.