Report abuse before it is too late

Staff writer

Small communities are more likely to have a higher rate of hidden elder abuse — a reality that makes Paul Shipp of Kansas Legal Services sit up and take notice.

“It’s hard because they don’t want to report whoever is abusing them,” he said. “It’s usually a child or a spouse — someone they count on, someone that knows that they need them so they can remain independent.”

Shipp, who spoke to Marion Seniors Wednesday, is just one of the many legal servants in Kansas who are concerned about elder abuse. While many people, he said, think immediately of physical abuse when it’s mentioned, he said senior citizens can also be abused emotionally or financially — most often by their own family members.

“It’s difficult to get those calls,” he said.

Shipp said the best thing that people can do is report any signs of elder abuse. While financial abuse can be difficult to spot, Shipp said it is possible — as long as a third-party has access to the accounts.

“If, for instance, you see that a woman in her 80s or 90s has bought a house full of gym equipment, you can pretty much guarantee that she isn’t going to use it,” he said. “Nine times out of 10, these cases usually come when the spouse dies, and they take in their child or grandchild. They know they aren’t going to be here for long and so they give the money to someone else, even if they have to give up their food budget for the week.”

Withdrawal from social activities is another sign of physical or emotional abuse.

“They don’t want people to see their black eye, and have to either lie or say that their family member did this to them,” he said. “So, they just stay in their house or apartment and don’t come out. That’s when you know something’s going on.”

Shipp said people are often afraid of reporting an incident of possible elder abuse or neglect; they don’t want to get in another person’s business. But, in the process, the lawyer said they are only enabling the abuser to get away with unlawful actions.

“You should always report your suspicions,” he said. “You could save someone’s life or, at the very least, drastically improve the quality of their life.”

Shipp said it’s important to call the appropriate authorities — either the police or Adult Protective Services — as close to the incident as possible, so that the senior in question can get the help that he or she needs.

“You’re not going to get sued,” Shipp said. “There are laws to cover you; no matter what happens, it’s always good to report it and be wrong, rather than to not report it and be right.”

To report suspected abuse, call the Kansas Protection Center at 800-922-5330.

 

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