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Surprising Statistics Presented To Elder Abuse Task Force

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Aug 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-08 04:48:39-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Last year, the General Assembly voted to create a special task force to look at the growing problem of elder abuse in Tennessee.

Experts said more and more seniors have been finding themselves victims of financial abuse and scams.

Some really surprising statistics were presented to the Elder Abuse Task Force when it met this week and began looking at what Tennessee can do to address this growing problem.

"I call it early inheritance syndrome that we deal with with these abusers,” Attorney David Callahan told the task force. “They just cannot wait to get their money out of their inheritance, and so they take steps to intervene with the natural order of things and obtain their inheritance early."

Callahan has been an estate planner who explained how he sees the fallout from the financial abuse of the elderly almost daily now.

And while two thirds of the victims have been women, 60% of the abusers were men between the ages of 30 and 59.

And most, about 90 percent, of the abusers are family members, either children or grandchildren, followed by caregivers and professional con artists who have targeted older adults.

"Elder abuse is more closely associated to child abuse than any other thing else. It has some additional challenges that aren't faced in child abuse cases that make them even harder to detect and harder to rectify," Callahan described.

He told the committee the problem was that the elderly all too often, rarely leave their homes and have little contact with the outside world where someone might be able to help them.

And Beverly Patnaik with the Council on Aging told the task force that especially when family members have been the abusers, there are many reasons, victims don't report it.

"They're ashamed that their family members are behaving that way towards them. They're in denial. They blame themselves. Their fear of the abuser. Retaliation. Being forced to leave their home. Fear of losing their independence. ‘Mom, if you don't give me your social security check, I'm going to put you in a nursing home.’ We hear that so many times," she shared.

The top scams she told the task force that target the elderly have been roofing or other house repair work scams where the con artist takes the victim's money and never does the work; magazine subscriptions where the elderly are convinced to buy years' worth of subscriptions they'll never read; calls supposedly from grandchildren who claim to be in jail and need the grandparent to wire bail money; and calls insisting the elderly person has failed to show up for jury duty and now must pay a fine.

"We've reached great frustration with the current structure of the elder abuse laws. We've reached, no offense to you, but we've reached great frustration with the district attorney's offices lack of willingness to pursue these cases," Callahan told the task force.

The elder abuse laws in Tennessee have not been updated in many years. This group, once they've identified what needs to be fixed, will then make recommendations to the General Assembly on how to fix it. Their report is due in January when the legislature reconvenes.

The Council on Aging said education is key to keeping seniors safe from scams. The Council has been offering monthly scam alerts and tips, and you can sign up for them on their website by clicking here