Jerry Davich: Elder abuse — society’s hushed secret
Jerry Davich email@example.com February 7, 2013 11:10PM
Lisa Arend | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Report elder abuse
To report elder abuse, call Indiana Adult Protective Services at (800) 992-6978, or call 911.
What is elder abuse?
Abuse: Any touching (battery) of a person in a rude and insolent manner. Verbally abusing an individual is also a punishable offense.
Neglect: The intentional withholding of essential care or service. Abandonment of an individual is also considered neglect.
Exploitation: The intentional misuse of a person’s property, person or services for financial gain.
Sudden social isolation.
Bruises, marks, excuses, alibis, and silence regarding possible abuse.
Unusual or large withdrawals or transfers from bank accounts, or large credit card charges that the older person can’t explain.
Checks that are missing or include suspicious signatures.
An individual who suddenly forms a close relationship with the older person, getting easy access to his or her home, money, and other property.
Untreated physical or mental problems, including a dramatic change in mood or disposition, or other evidence of substandard care.
Source: Indiana Adult Protective Services
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:18AM
The frail 65-year-old woman cowered in a corner of a bedroom. Her lips quivered. Her eyes welled with tears.
When Portage police arrived at her home last Sunday night, she was noticeably frightened and intimidated by the other person in the bedroom. It wasn’t a thief. It wasn’t a rapist. It wasn’t even a stranger.
It was her 38-year-old daughter, Lisa Arend, who angrily paced back and forth near her mother when police arrived, according to an incredibly detailed and eye-opening police report.
“As I attempted to speak with Ms. Arend about what was going on, she began yelling various profanities and immediately displayed an uncooperative and aggressive attitude,” wrote the responding police officer in a lengthy narrative.
Arend, who was unmoved by police presence, allegedly blocked the doorway with her legs to prevent her mother from talking alone with an officer in another room of the Portage home. Another officer tried to talk with Arend, but she would have none of it, the report states.
Police were called by a friend of Arend’s who was temporarily staying at the home, along with her husband and the couple’s two children, a 7-year-old and a 7-month-old. While the couple prepared to leave the home during an altercation between Arend and her mother, Arend allegedly told them, “Once you’re gone, I’m gonna kill her ... she’s dead.”
The mother, who I’m not naming to protect her identity, told police her daughter had just returned from a Lake Station bar and that she wanted more money from her. The mother and Arend’s friend told police that Arend was drunk and also high, possibly on prescription meds. A recently used crack pipe was later found in the bathroom, police say.
Arend’s friend told police she witnessed Arend punching her own mother with a closed fist, and Arend attempted to strangle her with a twisted sweatshirt. Arend also used her mother’s metal “reaching aid” to spear her in the upper chest, police said.
Arend also gave police a fight during her arrest. Backups were called. They warned her of being shot by a stun gun. It didn’t stop her, so police used the stun gun to apply handcuffs on her wrists and legs. She still resisted and later spit on them in the squad car, the report states.
Back inside the house, her mother was still fearful for obvious reasons.
“She expressed tearful concern with Ms. Arend’s inevitable release from jail and her returning to the residence,” the officer wrote.
Arend was charged with multiple offenses, including battery, intimidation, battery to household member with a child present, disorderly conduct, and battery to law enforcement.
Three 10-day protection orders were issued against Arend by police to help protect her mother. But, as we all know, there are long odds this volatile mother-daughter reunion will be stopped as time goes on.
America ages, abuse rises
I relay this local incident to shine a light on a subject that most of us would rather conveniently ignore — elder abuse. Roughly two-thirds of abuse to people age 65 and older comes at the hands of their families, research shows, similar to this case.
Worse yet, it’s a problem that quietly mirrors our rising population of Americans 65 and older, which is projected to nearly double by 2030. The number of people age 85 and older is rising at an even faster clip.
Many elder abuse victims are frail, vulnerable and totally dependent on others for their most basic human needs. Others are confused, gullible or simply flimflammed by financial fraud, the most common abuse. And some are prisoners in their own homes.
According to data from the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study, only 16 percent of the abuse situations are referred for help. The rest, 84 percent, remain hidden from society, from cops, even from fellow loved ones.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates there are more than 5 million victims every year, the vast majority invisible due to fear, threats and intimidation.
Worse yet, the most common reason for closing an elder abuse case is the death of a victim — not a guilty verdict. Too many victims refuse to press charges out of fear, retribution, shame or guilt. Or they become enablers to their bully-children.
Adult Protective Services is the principal public agency responsible for investigating reported cases of elder abuse. But, as I said, many victims are too afraid to speak up.
If they have the courage to complain, they typically won’t press charges, similar to wives who won’t press charges against their abusive husbands. Plus, some victims with dementia or mental disabilities simply make bad witnesses, or the threat of loneliness is too much to bear.
The adult child or grandchild, no matter how cruel or irresponsible, could be the only family left after a spouse dies. As I was told years ago by a local social worker, “A lot of widows are preyed on before their husbands are even buried.”
The only upside is this: Elder abuse is preventable and maybe this column will prompt someone to take a stand, file a report and call the authorities.