On the rise: over 4,000 reports of elder abuse in Kern County
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Elder abuse is widespread, and reports are on the rise in Kern County. Too often, these stories go under-reported and undetected.
There were more than 4,000 reports of elder abuse in Kern County last year, and experts say only about one of every 24 cases gets reported, according to Kern County Aging and Adult Services.
Financial abuse of the elderly is one of the most common types reported.
Bakersfield's Kate Eucce said it happened to her aunt Lillian, who lived in Florida.
"She was an immaculate woman. She always dressed to the nines, always pristine," Eucce said of her aunt, whose close relatives were scattered across California and Indiana.
"We always talked to her on the phone, things seemed to be fine," Eucce said.
But about ten years ago, Eucce's sister in law discovered that the daughter of a close friend of Lillian's had taken over all of her accounts and moved her into a convalescent home.
Elderly financial abuse costs over $36 billion in losses every year, according to a report by True Link Financial.
Phone scams like fraudsters impersonating the IRS disproportionately target older Americans, and often family, and supposedly close friends, of the elderly take advantage of their finances.
Other forms of elder abuse include physical and emotional, neglect, abandonment, and self-neglect.
Bakersfield attorney Matt Clark sees cases of neglect and physical abuse of the elderly that went unnoticed for too long, close to 75 percent of his cases involve a person who died from elder abuse or neglect.
Clark recommends family be vigilant of their loved one's environment and quality of care, and call Kern County aging and adult services if concerned.
"Be proactive. Because once you get to a point of having to be reactive, the harm has already been done," Clark, attorney at Chain Cohn Stiles said.
Eucce said others can avoid what happened to her aunt if they ask their loved ones about possible abuse, even if it's uncomfortable to bring up.
Fortunately, after six years of legal battles, the family managed to help Lillian and get most of her assets back where they belonged.
"My aunt lived a life to the end, not the one that she wanted, but she lived a good, happy, healthy life after that, knowing that we were there and taking care of her," Eucce said.