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Breaking the silence on elder abuse

Eric Galatas

(Wyoming News Service) Elder abuse is experienced by at least one in 10 people aged 60 and older who live at home, and AARP Wyoming is working to ensure people have the information they need to protect themselves and family members.

Paul Greenwood, a former San Diego deputy district attorney, said the actual number of incidents is much higher. Greenwood has prosecuted more than 750 felony cases of both physical and financial elder abuse, which he calls a hidden crime.

"And it is the one that perpetrators rely on, because there is so much silence out there about the crime," Greenwood pointed out. "Silence about reporting it by the victim because of embarrassment, maybe they know the perpetrator."

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Abuse can be financial, physical, psychological, and extreme cases involve homicide. Greenwood noted one telltale sign of abuse is a distinct change in mood or deviations from normal behavior.

Greenwood will lead a Teletown Hall for preventing abuse at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 19. To join the free event, call 833-380-0685. If you believe someone has fallen victim to abuse, call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-457-3659.

Social isolation during the pandemic may have contributed to a rise in romance scams. Greenwood explained perpetrators steal a legitimate person's identity, often someone with a military background. They troll dating sites looking for victims, and begin an online courtship. He added he is surprised by how many older adults fall victim, convinced they have found the love of their life.

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© iStock - Wavebreakmedia

"Although they've never met them, they've never even seen them in a FaceTime chat," Greenwood observed. "But then are willing to part with money when some tragedy befalls the so-called love interest."

Greenwood added stopping such crimes is not just up to family members and law enforcement. Neighbors, bank tellers, mail carriers, hairdressers, and clergy all need to know what to look for, because Greenwood emphasized it is our collective responsibility to not stay silent.

"If we suspect that a loved one or a neighbor is a victim of some form of either financial or physical abuse, then it is our duty to make that call to our local adult protective services," Greenwood urged.