Elder abuse can be considered a growing problem within the United States, but there are some communities taking steps to prevent its occurrence and safeguarding the rights of older people. One such initiative gaining ground in Tucson, Arizona, a joint project between the office of the Arizona Attorney General and a local organization known as the Pima Council On Aging (PCOA).
According to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, by the end of this decade 25 percent of the state’s population will be over the age of 60. Both Brnovich and PCOA have joined forces, along with other regional organizations, to form the Taskforce Against Senior Abuse (TASA), with its stated goal to not just raise awareness concerning elder abuse and to aid in its prevention statewide but also to provide a legal avenue for prosecuting those caught in the act.
Both PCOA, the Arizona attorney general, and the taskforce’s other partners, the goal is to not just protect older people from physical abuse. In fact, one of the primary goals of TASA is to put an end to not just physical abuse of older people but their financial exploitation as well.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the cost of financial exploitation of older Americans can exceed $3 billion a year. While those engaging in financial exploitation can target anyone of any age, con artists and identity thieves have a tendency to target the aged, often to capitalize on individuals suffering from age-related dementia or other medical issues that can make them easy marks for scams.
Since its inception in 1967, PCOA has been working in the Tucson area to reporting ongoing elder abuse and also preventing it from happening in the first place through a community-based approach that focuses on education and intervention. The group provides the community with senior care advocates and specialists to talk to. These specialists can help directly by providing aid in filling out forms for benefits enrollment and contacting creditors on behalf of an older person. Additionally, PCOA personnel also lead workshops at local community centers to provide information as to what elder abuse may look like to the untrained eye.
There are several ways that elder abuse through financial exploitation can be identified. According to PCOA and other senior care experts, friends and relatives of the elderly can look out for several warning signs that might indicate financial exploitation, including:
Any one of these warning signs could indicate elder abuse through financial exploitation, though sometimes it can be more subtle and hard to identify. This is especially true in the case when an older person’s caregiver is a close friend or family member that would otherwise be considered trustworthy. Many times, these individuals may be able to cover their tracks or shield themselves behind the pre-existing relationship with the older person.
If you feel that someone you know may be suffering from elder abuse of any kind, you can contact elder care attorneys or organizations in your area similar to PCOA. In many cases, you can speak anonymously if you fear that a close friend or family member may be perpetrating the abuse; the most important thing is to speak up while you can.