More than two million seniors are abused annually in the U.S. And for every case of elder abuse and neglect reported, only an estimated one in 14 cases of elder mistreatment are reported. Financial abuse against the elderly is an area that continues to grow rapidly. It is estimated that 75 percent of the net assets in this country are owned by people age 50 years and older. Every year, thousands of Americans lose as little as a few dollars to as much as their entire life savings to fraudulent telemarketers. According to Congress, the loss is more than $40 billion each year. Everyone is a potential target – fraud is not limited by race, ethnic background, gender or income level.
Seniors, especially are targeted by con artists who are selling bogus products and services by phone. As a result, the potential for abuse is extremely high. The WISE & Healthy Aging Elder Abuse Prevention Program provides seniors with the knowledge and skills they can use to protect themselves from becoming victims of financial, physical or emotional abuse.
The major forms of elder abuse include: physical abuse (which may include, but is not limited to, such acts of violence as striking, beating, pushing, slapping, burning, and inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind); sexual abuse; abandonment; neglect; self-neglect; financial or material exploitation; hoarding; and emotional or psychological abuse.
Senior victims often lack knowledge about how to seek protection from their abusers, and are fearful of reporting the crime due to their dependency upon abusers for care or are reluctant to report family members. In reaching out to seniors, the community-based, social services nonprofit WISE & Healthy Aging works closely with a network of professional groups, organizations and agencies, including: County of Los Angeles Area Agency on Aging, City of Los Angeles Dept. of Aging, law enforcement, district attorney’s offices, probate court, Adult Protective Services (APS), Public Guardian Office, FBI, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Consumer Affairs, U.S. Postal Service, private conservatorship agencies, financial and real estate experts, and medical experts.
Informational resource fairs and trainings are held throughout Los Angeles County where WISE & Healthy Aging brings together senior residents with experts, instructing the older adults on how to avoid identity theft, telemarketing and investment scams, home repair rip-offs, sweepstakes, mail fraud, and real estate scams. WISE & Healthy Aging also offers specialized training and one-day symposiums to groups such as employees of financial institutions, law enforcement, attorneys, and Emergency Departments and other healthcare professionals.
WISE & Healthy Aging is proud to be recognized by the state for its best practice administration of the City & County of Los Angeles Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and Elder Abuse Prevention Services. In addition to its main office in Santa Monica, there are regional offices in Van Nuys, Pasadena, Montebello and Long Beach.
WISE & Healthy Aging has produced a Resource Guide for older adults, in collaboration with local and federal agencies. The Elder Justice Guide is a resource for action, providing information for recognizing the signs of elder abuse, along with specific contact information for resources, including how to report abuse and how to protect oneself – what to do and what not to do. To receive a Guide, please contact WISE & Healthy Aging at (310) 394-9871. The Guide is also part of the “Westside Guide for 50+” which can also be found online at www.westsideguide.org.