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"Helpful hints can arm you against possible elder abuse"

Helpful hints can arm you against possible elder abuse

By Margaret Nesbitt
April 17, 2006

The room in the Santa Paula Senior Center should have been overflowing. It wasn't, and that's too bad. The program presented information important to all seniors.

Detective David Lusk had brought together three wonderful speakers to provide the residents of Santa Paula with information on offenses committed against the elderly.

The first to speak was Janice Lamborne from the Ventura County District Attorney's Office. First, she warned of unethical salespeople who stalk the elderly in hopes of selling them something.

We've all heard of those who tell us that our roof needs repairing and that the driveways need resurfacing. These people require a deposit so that they can buy the materials, and then promptly disappear. Of course, the elderly person cannot go up on the roof to check and believes the con artist.

How many times have we read in the newspaper of the person who has been hoodwinked into believing that they have won a prize, which is only redeemable if some cash is forwarded to the prize giver. Again, the cash and the con artist disappear.

An official delivery person can appear at the door saying there is a C.O.D. package for a neighbor who is not home. Refuse to accept the package and keep your money unless the neighbor has made prior arrangements with you.

Recently, we have heard a great deal about identity theft.

Thieves will gather personal information by sifting through dumpsters and stealing mail, which will give them credit card numbers and bank information. They can use this information to drain bank accounts, open new credit accounts and buy cars.

Marcy Snyder of Adult Project Services spoke on the growing problem of elder abuse, which crosses all social, economic and ethnic lines. It can be happening to your next-door neighbor, and you could be totally unaware of it. Physical abuse includes physical harm to the elderly person, and can include sexual assault and physical constraint. If a dependent appears to be unwashed, malnourished or wearing soiled clothing, chances are this person is being neglected. Being isolated from friends and social contact also indicates abuse. Psychological abuse includes threats to send the person to a nursing home, and threats to withhold medication and food. The elderly victim will end up confused, depressed and withdrawn.

Joan Virginia Allen from the Fiduciary Abuse Specialist Team gave the final presentation, focusing on financial abuse. This occurs when a person takes the assets of an elder or dependent with the intent to defraud. It is considered to be a crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment, or both. It is one of the fastest-growing crimes perpetrated against the elderly. Much of this abuse occurs in families, and a parent is often too ashamed to report children for this kind of abuse.

We have also heard a great deal about conservatorships in the media recently. A conservator is a person who manages an elderly person's finances. The position has never required a license, and trusting individuals can suddenly find themselves penniless. California lawmakers are urging that the position be licensed and require background checks.

If you suspect that any of these crimes is taking place in your neighborhood, call the following numbers: District Attorney's Office at 654-2500, Adult Protective Services at 654-3200, and F.A.S.T. at 497-0189. If you need immediate help, dial 911.

Lusk and the Santa Paula Police Department are going to be offering other series in the future.

Margaret Nesbitt is a Star columnist. She welcomes comments and suggestions about subjects of interest to seniors. They can be sent to Unlimited Horizons, c/o Karen Hibdon, Ventura County Star, P.O. Box 6711, Ventura, CA 93006-6711.

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