Experts: Elder abuse on the rise during the pandemic

National

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Experts say the pandemic has put older adults at a greater risk of elder abuse and poor health outcomes.

Charles E. Smith Life Communities in Montgomery County says fewer older adults are seeking out routine medical care, partially due to a lack of access to technology to take advantage of telehealth services.

Decreased technological literacy among older adults also puts them at risk to fall victim to phone or online scams.

Those same experts say COVID-19 related scams are cropping up, like people calling from fake coronavirus charities, stimulus check scams, fake testing and vaccine scams, and Social Security Scams.

Elder adults are also spending more time in isolation with the extended closure of senior centers and libraries. It means older adults who depend on caregivers are spending more time in secluded settings that may allow elder abuse to go unnoticed.

Workers at senior centers and libraries are required to report signs of elder abuse, and with those centers closed, more and more cases of elder abuse are going unreported.

“It can be physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, along with abandonment and financial exploitation. The key here is it happens in a relationship where there was an exploitation of trust,” said Sydney Palinkas of Charles E. Smith Life Communities during a webinar hosted by Montgomery County Public Libraries on Monday.

She said some signs of elder abuse include:

  • unexplained/untreated injuries (like cuts and bruises)
  • weight loss and dehydration
  • poor hygiene
  • change in personality
  • depression, anxiety
  • scared of someone in their life
  • prevented from communicating with friends or family members
  • lack of food/necessities in the home
  • sudden worry and confusion about money and finances
  • unpaid bills around the home

The National Center on Elder Abuse says only 1 in 23 cases of elder abuse are ever reported.

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