(BROWNSTOWN) – As our population ages, elder abuse is a growing problem impacting some of our most important citizens. The elderly are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Recorder Amanda Lowery says elder abuse impacts not just seniors, but anyone over the age of eighteen categorized as an endangered adult. An endangered adult is a person incapable by reason of mental illness, intellectual disability, dementia, habitual drunkenness, excessive drug use, or other physical or mental incapacity of managing or directing the management of the individual’s property or providing self-care.
The definition also includes a person harmed or threatened with harm as a result of neglect, battery or exploitation of the individual’s personal services or property.
There are multiple crimes that are committed against endangered adults in our State. One of the most common crimes committed against endangered adults is Exploitation.
Exploitation is committed by a person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized use of the personal services or the property of an endangered adult for the person’s own profit or advantage.
According to a 2011 study, older Americans lose a minimum of $2.9 billion annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation.
There are several well-recognized risk factors for elder abuse. The risk factors include: a current diagnosis of mental health; current abuse of alcohol; high levels of hostility; poor or inadequate preparations or training for care giving responsibilities; assumption of care giving responsibility at an early age; inadequate coping skills; exposure to abuse as a child; high
financial and emotional dependence upon a vulnerable elder; lack of social support; or lack of formal services such as respite care.
Elder abuse is most often perpetrated by the victim’s own family members. Roughly 90% of abusers are family members, most often adult children or spouses. A 2010 study reported that approximately 11% of the elderly population in the United States had experience abuse or neglect in the year prior. Despite this high percentage, we know that elder abuse is largely unreported.
The National Center on Elder Abuse suggests that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse is actually reported to authorities.
All of this is made more important because elders who experience abuse, neglect, or self- neglect face considerably higher risk of premature death than elders who have not been mistreated. Older adults who are abused or mistreated are three times more likely to die within the next decade than the same age adults who are not mistreated.
The County Recorder’s Office may not be the first place you think of when it comes to protecting our elders from abuse like exploitation. However, Lowery says a common property scam occurs where someone files a fake deed at the Recorder’s Office, then takes that deed to a bank and fraudulently obtains a loan.
Jackson County has a fraud alert system in place to prevent this kind of conduct. Property owners can sign up for this service by calling the Recorder’s Office, or by going to https://pfa.fidlar.com/INJackson.
The registration process is quick, easy and free. The system will deliver an alert by email or telephone if the user’s name appears in a document filed with the Recorder’s Office.
Lowery hopes the citizens of Jackson County will use this fraud alert tool to protect themselves and their loved ones from exploitation.
“I also hope that, as a community, we will take the opportunity to be vigilant regarding the safety and well-being of elders and endangered adults among us,” she added.
For more information about the fraud alert program, you may contact the Recorder’s office by phone at 812-358-6113.