San Diego has become well-known around the country for being a safe and family-friendly city. The area has been enjoying a decreasing crime rate in recent years. However, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan says the work is not finished. Stephen’s office is focusing on reducing incidents of elder abuse, recognizing it when it happens, properly investigating it, and prosecuting it when necessary.
San Diego County’s “Blueprint”
In March, the county D.A.’s office launched an initiative against elder abuse, which has been on the rise in the previous five years. The D.A.’s office has compiled information and tools that they are referring to as a “blueprint” designed to help key professionals identify elder abuse and effectively question those affected by it, including seniors who may be suffering from dementia.
The blueprint is intended to increase people’s understanding of what constitutes elder abuse. It provides information for professionals, such as the police and bank tellers, to better be able to recognize abusive situations. This is essential as many elderly people may have their contact with the world restricted by their abusers or may feel too ashamed or embarrassed to come forward after being scammed.
The blueprint also offers information on how to best investigate potential abuse, something which is particularly important for the police who are not trained in these types of issues. Many police officers hesitate to investigate these cases because they think they are civil matters or they do not believe an elderly person with cognitive issues is credible. That is why the blueprint contains recommendations for how to interview individuals with certain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. It also discusses observing and documenting non-verbal reactions in individuals who have diminished cognitive or verbal capacity.
The document contains lists of recommended questions for elderly victims of financial abuse, physical abuse, or neglect. These questions are intended to help the elderly feel more comfortable in answering questions and to help the police recognize common forms of abuse and neglect.
Overall, this elder abuse and neglect blueprint creates a protocol for the police to follow similar to protocols for domestic violence or sexual assault.
Types of Elder Abuse
Individuals over 65 and younger adults with limitations are at a significant risk for neglect and abuse. When these individuals are forced to rely on caretakers, even when they are family and friends, they are forced into a power imbalance. They may not be able to physically take care of themselves or protect themselves. If they are facing dementia or cognitive decline, they may have a difficult time communicating with others. Additionally, seniors who are not tech savvy are at risk for being manipulated with information or vocabulary they are unfamiliar with. All of these factors and more put elders at risk for:
- Neglect: This occurs caretaker does not appropriately provide for the senior. Neglect can include a lack of food and water, a dirty and unsafe environment, and a lack of hygiene and personal care.
- Physical abuse: Physical abuse is more than neglect, which can result from carelessness. Physical abuse encompasses a person intentionally and knowingly harming the senior.
- Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse encompasses all non-consensual sexual contact. If an elderly person is mentally incompetent, then all sexual contact is non-consensual and illegal.
- Financial abuse: Seniors may be victims of direct theft. They are also often manipulated and defrauded into handing over money and property.
Are You Worried About an Elderly Family Member?
If you have noticed signs that an elderly loved one is being neglected, abused, or scammed, contact a San Francisco elder abuse lawyer at Brod Law Firm today.
(image courtesy of Jeremy Wong)