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Has pandemic led to more abuse of elderly?

Could abuse of the elderly, brought about in part by the pandemic, be a problem escaping detection in the Central Pennsylvania region?

Whether or not that is true, families, agencies, elder-care facilities and law enforcement officials must be proactive in watching for signs of that serious problem and be aggressive in pursuing and following up, when suspicions exist or are brought to their attention by others.

For the bulk of two years, the illness and death tolls and the various COVID-19 variants, as well as the efforts to contain and defeat the virus, rightly have consumed most of the attention.

However, virus-related impacts not actually involving sickness or death have not been given the national attention deserved — understandably, due to the illness’ most-visible horrific, unrelenting tolls and suffering.

Restrictions to everyday life and the agitation those restrictions have caused also have been widespread-attention-grabbing, to the detriment of attention to less-visible problems.

One of those harder-to-notice problems — everything else considered — has been victimization of the elderly on aspects of life not tied directly to COVID-19.

A Dec. 29 Wall Street Journal article — “Elder abuse is spreading, stoked by the pandemic” — provided information that deserves notice — and attention here and everywhere else — as well as action where believed necessary.

This editorial will report important points of that article that, initially at least, should provide incentive for lawmakers to examine whether adequate penalties and human services — and enough vigilance – are in place to deal with the potential or very real problem, if that be the case.

The Journal article revolves around data such as that revealed in a Federal Bureau of Investigation report on internet crime between 2019 and 2020. That report, containing the latest data available, indicates that elder-fraud victims increased 55 percent during that time.

Meanwhile, a Yale University study released in January 2021 found that more than one in five older individuals living in homes or apartments, as opposed to facilities, reported abuse in April and May 2020, when all states had stay-at-home orders in effect.

Part of the Journal’s report was about a temporary caregiver in Denver, on probation for a felony robbery conviction, having been hired at a long-term-care facility, where she stole credit cards and an engagement ring, appraised at $13,800, from an 86-year-old woman dying of COVID.

Another part of the article dealt with a Miami, Fla., woman’s property, with a listed appraised value of $212,000, being stolen by three individuals who forged the name of the owner — an octogenarian — on a deed and sold the property to a New York development company.

The focus of the article also shifted to Memphis, Tenn., where a man’s son had used a crowbar to injure him.

The two had resided together, and other family members said the pandemic had kept them from visiting the victim and determining that something wrong was going on.

“Stay-at-home orders and social distancing left older adults isolated and at times sheltering with abusers, either family or caregivers who threatened to send them to a nursing home or cough on them if they didn’t give them money,” the Journal reported.

Are there serious elder-abuse problems in Central Pennsylvania?

Hopefully, the general silence that has enveloped the issue in this region is correct that there aren’t.

Nevertheless, experiences elsewhere, even if far away, must be a basis for watchfulness here.

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