For some families and in many cultures, aging parents are never ‘thrown away’ into senior housing communities or nursing facilities. Caring for their loved ones is traditionally expected to be given at home. My own grandmother began living with my mother until she passed away, despite increased health needs. We moved her out of her home in Georgia, after repeated falls. After my grandfather passed away, she lived in a home[with stairs] alone. After one fall which left her on the floor for more than a day, it was decided that she needed family closer to her…just in case.
However reluctant, she came to live in New York, close to family. She would miss her family home until her death, but we couldn’t imagine her anywhere else. That’s just the way it was and that’s the way it is for other families, as well. More and more adult children are opting to care for aging relatives at home. Unfortunately for many older adults, potential abuses can occur whether in the home by outside caregivers or family members themselves.
We’ve all heard the horror stories, and pray that it doesn’t land too close to home with our loved ones. However, elder abuse is an epidemic. Statistics show that the number of older Americans who are physically, mentally and financially exploited is rising.
According to a study released by the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, approximately five million elderly Americans are victims of abuse. This exceeds the number of domestic violence and child abuse victims combined. Social Security beneficiaries are included in the millions who suffer sometimes physical, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect of basic care and medical needs.
Statistics also indicate that most reported cases involve family members or people closely related to the victims. Many elder abuse victims suffer from decreased cognitive capacity, such as dementia, and are not able to protect themselves. Adult protective services operate under state law to investigate reports of elder abuse and to work with the victims to protect them and stop the maltreatment.
It is important that adult protective services agencies in every community have a close working relationship with Social Security to:
- Remove abusive representative payees;
- Prevent unsuitable representative payees from being put in place or being re-instated, and;
- Appoint appropriate representative payees who will protect the victim’s benefits.
Social Security is with you through life’s journey. Under Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and Chief of Staff Stacy Rodgers, Social Security has made great strides in a short time to protect beneficiaries from financial exploitation and to coordinate with adult protective services agencies on behalf of clients.