How to spot, prevent elder abuse

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Throughout June advocates for senior citizens join our nation in a month-long observance of elder abuse awareness. Susan Bodner, head of the recently re-established Senior Services of the Indian Wells Valley, said that this is unfortunately a grave concern in our community.

“Elder abuse is everywhere and our little town is no exception,” said Bodner. “If families are feeling overwhelmed by caring for their senior loved one, they need to reach out for support and assistance.”

Her program, operated through the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, is just one of the many resources locally that support seniors and their families.

Elder abuse falls under six categories — physical, sexual or emotional abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment and financial exploitation.

That last category is much broader than some might think, she said. “Refusing to let your parent go into an assisted living facility or a skilled nursing facility because you don’t want them to use their money is considered financial abuse and is reportable to Adult Protective Services and law enforcement,” said Bodner.

“Financial abuse happens frequently. People will befriend a senior and then convince them to let them ‘borrow’ money.” Most of the time, those who take money are not seen or heard from again.

“I often see where individuals will go to a senior’s home and offer to clean their yard or their home, and the senior will pay them up front.” Similarly, those predators disappear before service is rendered.

On top of those in-person risks, there are constant phone scams that target seniors with stories that a family member needs money. “These people can be convincing, and it is frightening for the senior to think a loved one is hurt or in trouble.”

Bodner said that there have also been cases where family members simply bring a loved one to the emergency room and say they can no longer provide care. “Unfortunately, the hospital can’t just take them in.”

The best way to be prepared for these transitions in life is early planning, she said.

“We all need to plan for the future, and we need to let our family know what we want should we develop Alzheimer’s disease and no longer be able to make appropriate decisions,” she said.

She also implored seniors and their family members to put measures in place to protect themselves and their elders and to know what signs to look for if a senior is in trouble.

“Be diligent about being aware of changes with your loved one,” said Bodner.

“Some signs are unexplained bruises, the individual becomes withdrawn and doesn’t want to socialize. They don’t want people coming in their house and refuse visitors. Depression, sadness.”

She said she counsels her clients to never to let strangers in their homes. “Be aware when you go out in the community, and let someone know where you are going. As family members we should try to keep daily contact and stop by for surprise visits. If predators see that someone is checking up, then maybe they will be less of a target.”

Any representatives of a legitimate business should be pressed to provide proof of identity.

“I also tell folks, if something doesn’t feel right, ask the person to leave or call law enforcement.”

Bodner said that she goes over her grandmother’s monthly bills to ensure that bills are being paid but also that there are no mysterious or significant withdrawals being made on her account.

“There are very cruel people out there who prey on the elderly,” she said. “But if you need help or have questions, don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask.”

Senior Services of IWV and its companion Homemaker Services are located at 417 W. Drummond Ave. For information call 760-375-4322.

Story First Published: 2017-06-23