Letters to the Editor

New laws for elder abuse allow for better training

“Elder abuse” is recognized as a health and human rights issue and includes a range of offenses. Abuse is sometimes hard to detect; elder abuse is frequently inflicted by a known, trusted person, often a family member. Neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation are common forms of abuse.

A recent investigative local newspaper article about adult family homes prompted evaluation of the need for additional home regulation. A startling local example of financial exploitation was the story of a Bellevue woman accused of convincing an elderly man, suffering from dementia, to marry her and empty his bank account the very same day.

Incidents like this prompted new lawmaking during our 2010 Washington legislative session. The new law applies to older vulnerable adults, and requires financial institutions to train certain employees to better identify older adults who may be victims of financial exploitation, and gives institutions the right to withhold fund disbursement while the request is investigated.

As community members, family and friends, we must be vigilant. Signs of mistreatment often include unexplained physical injuries, repeated accidents, behavior changes such as crying and isolation, or deteriorating health and hygiene. Financial troubles that appear out of the blue can signal financial exploitation.

If you suspect an older or disabled adult is being abused, neglected or exploited, call 1-866-363-4276 or call 911 to request that police perform a “Welfare Check.”

For questions or help, contact Betsy Zuber at Mercer Island Youth and Family Services at 275-7611.

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