Governor Paul LePage joined state officials at the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation and Department of Health and Human Services, as well as other agencies and Maine organizations, in focusing attention on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is recognized each June 15th throughout the United States and in other countries.
As he has done with the issue of domestic violence, Governor LePage is encouraging greater awareness of elder abuse. To highlight what is sometimes referred to as the "crime of the 21st century,' because of its increasing prevalence and devastating impacts, the Governor issued a proclamation designating June 15th "Maine Elder Abuse Awareness Day." The proclamation urges the State's residents to join this effort by reporting suspected abuse of Maine's seniors.
"Elder abuse comes in various forms -- emotional, physical, financial," Governor LePage commented. "It can involve neglect, abandonment and the draining of a senior's monetary assets. Sadly, these crimes are under-reported, leaving too many victims to suffer. The State of Maine has the resources and strong desire to provide assistance and support, but it's imperative that more people speak up and report their concerns."
Commissioner Anne L. Head from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (DPFR) noted that financial abuse, which includes investment fraud and exploitation, is among the most common forms of elder abuse, costing its victims an estimated $2.9 billion a year.
"Seniors are disproportionately the target of financial exploitation," Commissioner Head commented. "All too often, the abuse is perpetrated by caregivers, family members or financial advisers."
The Commissioner explained that the Department's five agencies are dedicated to educating the public and helping the victims of financial abuse. As examples, she highlighted the Bureau of Financial Institution's online Consumer Library (www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions) and the Downeaster Guide to Elder Financial Protection available through the Department's Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection. The 32 page publication is available free of charge to Maine residents by calling 1-800-332-8529 (1-800-DEBT-LAW). It can also be found at www.Credit.Maine.gov under "Publications".
Maine's Office of Securities, another agency within DPFR, noted the frequency of investment fraud and the importance of reporting suspected cases. "Investment fraud is an area of particular concern," Securities Administrator Judith Shaw said, "because victims can quickly see their entire life-savings depleted with little opportunity to recover financial stability. Losses through financial abuse can also lead to physical and emotional health problems." For investment-related questions or concerns, the Office of Securities can be reached toll-free at 1-877-624-8551 and online at www.investors.maine.gov.
Rick Mooers, Director of Maine Adult Protective Services in the Office of Elder Services at DHHS, stressed that while it is essential for suspected elder abuse to be promptly reported to the Maine APS 24-hour hotline, education on the signs that a senior may be a victim of abuse is also critical.
"Understanding which seniors in our communities may be especially vulnerable to elder abuse and financial exploitation, and spotting the red flags of abuse, are essential to ensuring that victims get the help they need," Mooers said.
Signs that an older adult may be vulnerable to possible abuse or exploitation may include:
* Social isolation, depression, and/or recent loss of a spouse or partner
* Recent decline in health or in the ability for self-care
* Lack of familiarity with financial accounts and/or overly complicated finances
* Dependence on another to provide everyday care or essential services
* Willingness to listen to telemarketing calls or respond to solicitations from unverified charities or businesses
Red flags of possible victimization include:
* Senior has injuries that are not adequately explained
* Change in appearance or poor hygiene
* Senior is missing checks, account statements or documentation regarding finances
* Running out of money at the end of the month or excessive anxiety about finances
* Senior is fearful or depressed
* Senior is accompanied by a caregiver who is overly protective or dominating
A copy of the Governor's proclamation accompanies this news release, as well as a partial listing of state agencies that can assist seniors, caregivers and others who wish to report possible cases of abuse.