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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed each year on June 15. This year it is particularly important to consider how older adults (60+) and disabled individuals have been treated.
- Financial exploitation is an everyday problem. Anyone with a phone or computer may be victimized by robocalls, deceptive emails, and seemingly “helpful” pop-up messages. Let the calls go to voicemail and don’t click suspicious links on your computer or cell phone. Some excellent resources include Middlesex DA Marian Ryan’s 3/16/21 virtual discussion “Elder Scams, Covid and Isolation” at https://youtu.be/NNbbxeq2gzM and the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) 5/27/21 webinar/powerpoint “How to Avoid Scams and Fraud Targeting Older Adults.”
- Another kind of financial exploitation thrived during the pandemic. As property values soar, elders and their families are targeted and prized by exploiters. Real estate is a lucrative source of wealth that can be used for private pay long-term care, whether or not the older adult needs it or wants it. Elders seeking to “age in place” at home, with services, may struggle to remain in their homes, thanks to the efforts of multiple parties and entities working together to profit from liquidating homes of the elderly and disabled. Some are misdiagnosed with dementia and drugged with antipsychotics, when in reality the elder’s confusion may be delirium from a urinary tract infection (UTI), medication interactions, or disabilities like vision or hearing loss. These older adults may lose their civil rights, savings, and homes through guardianships, conservatorship, or power of attorney. Instead, obtain independent second opinions, stay current with loved one’s medical records, and make sure these records are accurate. Isolating elders and gaining control of assets are key objectives of abusers. The recent Netflix movie “I Care A Lot” includes some disturbingly accurate portrayals of patterns involved in elder abuse and financial exploitation (though the finale is more of a Hollywood ending).
- Contrary to popular belief, Probate and Housing court eviction proceedings continued virtually during the pandemic, by phone and/or computer. Unfortunately, a pro se (representing oneself) litigant without computer or smartphone access is at great disadvantage, unable to see all the documents and participants during the proceedings, which could result in loss of the family home and homelessness for caregivers. The Courts have struggled to adapt amidst Covid-19 requirements but need to carefully evaluate the limitations of virtual proceedings before implementing them permanently in the post-Covid era.
- 4. The Massachusetts May 2021 Year Two Progress Report, “ReiMagine Aging – Planning Together to Create an Age-Friendly Future for Massachusetts,” describes efforts to improve the plight of older adults. Additionally, post-pandemic, there needs to be improved state oversight of facilities for elders, enforcement of existing regulations, an end to pandemic waivers that benefited elder care facilities over residents, and improved training and accountability in the complex forms of financial exploitation that are used by those who collude and racketeer to annex assets and exercise control.
As the country emerges from the horrors and restrictions of Covid-19, contact your Federal and State legislators with concrete examples of difficulties you and your loved ones encountered before and during the pandemic. And let the Silver Legislature (www.masilverlegislature.org) know too. Our representatives can’t “fix” what they don’t know and acknowledge is broken.
Attorney / Elder Advocate, TMM Prec. 8