Financial abuse of county's elderly citizens is on the rise
BLOMKEST -- An increasing number of elderly residents are being financially exploited by their children. In 2007, Kandiyohi County social workers received 40 reports of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. That was up from 20 reports the ...
BLOMKEST -- An increasing number of elderly residents are being financially exploited by their children.
In 2007, Kandiyohi County social workers received 40 reports of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.
That was up from 20 reports the previous year.
The five-year average was 26 cases.
Claudia Zylstra, who investigates maltreatment reports of vulnerable adults in Kandiyohi County, said she's "amazed" at the number of adult children who are "willing to rip off their parents."
Citing one case that resulted in legal prosecution, Zylstra said an adult child withdrew money from an elderly parent's bank account by making regular trips to the ATM. Eventually those $200 withdrawals drained all $40,000 from the account that was supposed to be used for the parent's nursing home care.
Not only was the money spent and unable to be restored, Zylstra said the trust between parent and child was broken and the family relationship destroyed.
"How do you comfort an angry parent?" Zylstra asked.
During a report Tuesday in Blomkest to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, Zylstra said the county's Family Services Department received a total of 129 reports of abuse of vulnerable adults in 2007 for six different categories, including financial exploitation, self-neglect, caregiver neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.
The number of total reports in 2007 was the highest number in the last five years. In 2006, the total number of cases was 72 and the five-year average was 99.
However, only a small percentage of the reports actually result in action.
In 2007, for example, of the 129 reports, 43 were investigated. Most were screened out, sometimes because of legal limitations, or found to have false findings.
Zylstra praised the county attorney's office for pursuing cases of financial exploitation and hoped publicity about them would deter others from committing the same crime.
Of the six different categories of abuse, financial exploitation was the most frequently reported.
Self-neglect was the second most reported type of abuse, with 39 cases reported in 2007 -- the highest number in five years.
Zlystra said there can be a fine line of determining when intervention is needed on behalf of an elderly person living independently.
What outsiders may find objectionable and report to the county -- the cleanliness or condition of a home, for example -- may be exactly how that person wants to live. As long as they're not in danger, she's inclined not to fix what isn't broken, she said.
Sometimes, however, family members are unable to see problems with their parents' independent living arrangements and "ignore" potentially dangerous situations.
Family dynamics and disagreement among siblings about what to do can result in nothing being done, she said. In those cases, it may be necessary to intervene.
It can be difficult for children to see their parents as a dependent, Zylstra said, and they fail to recognize the "gaps" in their care.
In 2007, there were 23 reports of caregiver neglect; 13 reports of physical abuse; two reports of emotional abuse; and 12 cases of sexual abuse.
Corrine Torkelson, a supervisor with the Kandiyohi County Family Services Department, said as the number of elderly and vulnerable adults in the county continues to increase, the number of reports of abuse will also likely increase.