Caregivers can be the first to spot elder abuse

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        Elder abuse has become a growing problem in the United States, with reported cases nearly doubling over the past 10 years, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.
        Ohio Revised Code section 2913.02 has defined elderly and disabled persons as members of a “protected class” of individuals. This definition gives these folks a greater level of protection as it pertains to the severity of the crimes against them. For example, any theft from a member of this protected class, regardless of the amount of money or the value of the property, makes the crime an automatic felony.
        For the record, this same section of Ohio law, gives the same protections to active-duty military personnel and their spouses.
        Another section of Ohio law, ORC section 5101.61 requires all caregivers, among others, to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of elderly and disabled persons. These reports are to be filed with the county’s Department of Job and Family Services.
        When most people hear the term “elder abuse,” they first think of physical abuse, but there are other types of crime against the elderly, including financial fraud. Regardless of the type of abuse, caregivers may be the first with an opportunity to see it and its aftereffects.
        Physical abuse includes beating, withholding of food and water, and failure to provide hygiene care, to mention but a few examples.
        Because a caregiver may spend more time with the elderly person, and because they may be the ones who provide bathing services, they may be the first to see bruising and other marks and signs of physical abuse.
        A caregiver may notice the senior is unexplainably losing weight, which could be a sign someone is denying the senior food.
        Financial fraud may also be something observed first by a caregiver. If a caregiver’s patient or client makes comments that he or she can no longer afford something, it may be a result of someone defrauding that elderly person.
        If the caregiver has been asked to assist with financial affairs, the caregiver may notice low bank balances or large withdrawals or other transactions that can be a sign of fraudulent activity. Such fraudulent activity has been known to be the work of family or friends who are taking advantage of the elderly person’s condition.
        Sometimes there’s a thin line between fraud and exploitation, although there need not be theft involved in exploitation. Anyone can be guilty of exploiting a senior citizen, but many times it involves someone known to the senior.
        Exploitation may be perpetrated by coercing the senior into doing something that the senior may not otherwise do, such as giving someone something of value. Again, this could also be considered theft by deception.
        Caregivers may be hesitant to report possible abuse but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If it turns out there has been no abuse, that’s good news. But a good caregiver would not want it on his or her conscious if abuse has occurred, but nothing had been done to stop it.
        To report possible elder abuse in Wood County, call Job and Family Services at 419-352-7566, then select option number 3.
        This article is a public service from the Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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