While physical abuse and financial abuse of the elderly make headlines, emotional abuse seems to be on the rise. I have a friend who lives in a senior housing complex and is the victim of emotional elder abuse. She has become terrified of leaving her apartment for fear of what might happen in her absence.
For a while she has been telling me that things were moved around in her apartment and that things were missing. I might have thought this was just her getting forgetful if I had not started noticing the same things. When I took her out grocery shopping, we would come back to find that things were gone. At the advice of a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper we bought a motion detecting camera and put it up facing her front door. It was not long before we had pictures of the complex maintenance man coming into her apartment when she was not there and going through her belongings. The State Police Trooper spoke to the man and he did not deny that the pictures were of him or that he had been touching her things. He had not been in the apartment doing any type of maintenance work.
We took the matter to the complex main office and they just sent a letter saying that since they never saw the pictures, the matter was closed. I guess the pictures I sent them by certified mail were “lost” or maybe “swept under the rug” is a better term. I have spoken to other residents of this complex and they had similar stories of things first being moved around and then things being taken. They all said the same thing; they were afraid to complain because they feared retaliation from the staff.
So as a warning to others, if you have elderly friends or family who report similar things, don’t dismiss them out of hand as being forgetful or having dementia. It could be the result of something terrible but totally preventable. It could be emotional abuse from the staff and management of the complex.
Joyce A Drescher, RPW
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