Break the Silence: What is Elder Abuse?

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Maxine and Ronna Forman have formed a close relationship over the last six months. Maxine’s life was like a puzzle in disarray. She asked that we not reveal her last name.

When her husband died two years ago, she was alone for the first time. Since her house was too big, she sold it and moved into an apartment. 

Introduced by a friend, a young woman Maxine didn’t know well moved in with her. 

‘All she wanted was the money to buy drugs’

“I wanted her to help me with my meals, help keep the apartment clean and take me where I needed to go,” Maxine said. “She came to spend one night. She never left. All she wanted was money to go buy drugs.”

For 4 months, the caregiver lived with Maxine. She had given the young woman access to her debit card. Her account was drained of over $12,000 in savings.

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“My clients a lot of time feel humiliated and ashamed for being in the situation they’ve been in,” says Ronna Forman, a case manager with the Office on Aging.

Ronna Forman is Maxine’s case manager. Obtaining a senior’s money, called financial exploitation, often leads to further neglect and abuse.  

Often victimized by caregivers

“I would say about 75% of the people that I help have been financially exploited by a caregiver,” Ronna said. 

Maxine said she was afraid to confront the young woman after she found out about the stolen savings, and she was afraid to be by herself.

“I got used to her being there and I was afraid of being alone,” Maxine said.

Elder abuse is widespread.

An estimated 1 in 10 older adults are victims of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation every year. Two-thirds of abusers are adult children or spouses. Those abused fear retaliation, loss of independence, or upsetting their family so they say nothing.

How to report suspected abuse

Maxine now lives a safe place and has people looking out for her. She has a clear message: “Make sure you know who you are letting into your life.”

If you suspect the abuse/neglect/exploitation of older adults report it to the Adult Protective Services. The toll-free number is 1-888-277-8366.

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