Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Law enforcement Works To Stop Elder Abuse Before it Starts

By JENNIFER SQUIRES Sentinel staff writer

Santa Cruz, California.. Elder abuse is on the upswing across the county, but the crimes can be difficult to detect and, sometimes, are caught too late.

"We getting a lot of elder abuse cases — everything from identity theft to financial abuse, all the way to physical and emotional abuse," District Attorney Bob Lee said.
The aging population coupled with the high value of homes in the area has led to an increase in elder abuse but there are few statistics available to show how widespread the problem is, authorities said.

"A lot of it just falls under financial and identity theft," said Santa Cruz police Sgt. Bernie Escalante.

The horror stories are there. During a breakfast forum last month, about 20 elder-care insurance specialists from all over the county listened to Escalante, an elder law attorney and an administrator at a live-in facility discuss the problems they see.

"It's often adult children who are trying to protect their inheritance," attorney Kathleen Brewington told the group.

Escalante agreed. "Unfortunately, families get very ugly with each other when it comes to money," he said.

Both law enforcement officials and elder-care professionals emphasize that it's imperative to catch elder abuse early, before a retiree's life savings are gone or home value is lost to mortgages and loans.

"The main thing is to get it before it starts," Lee said.

Contact Jennifer Squires at

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