The heroin crisis affects more than just the addicts using the drug. The elderly are also becoming victimized by this illegal drug in increasing numbers. Officials say that this segment of the population is being neglected by addicted family members and friends on whom they are dependent for care. The abuse is often financial, meaning that they are being drained of their assets by those they trust.
Number of Cases Involving Adult Protective Services Growing
The situation is particularly acute in Ohio. Sara Junk, the chairperson of the State’s Coalition of Adult Protective Services (APS), told the House finance committee recently that she had never seen the number of referrals to APS reach current levels in all the years she had been in this field. Ms. Junk also said that there was a “dire need” for more workers to investigate and respond to protect situations involving the elderly.
She referred directly to the opioid crisis when speaking about seniors who were trusting their addicted loved ones, “sometimes to their downfall or death.”
While that particular state has provided $10 million in one-time funding to improve protection for the elderly over the last few years, Ms. Junk said that level is not adequate to deal with the number of cases APS is seeing. The State has also provided new training for caseworkers and set consistent standards. It also introduced a helpline reporting number to report instances of abuse.
Financial Abuse Cases Common
The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that one in 10 seniors in the US is abused or neglected annually. The number of seniors who have been financially abused has increased in recent years, mostly due to addicted children and relatives taking advantage of them.
Actual numbers may be higher than reported. Victims may be reluctant to tell police or social workers because they are afraid of reprisals from their relatives. The senior may also fear the loss of their only caregiver if they report the abuse.
Adult children and grandchildren are moving in with elderly parents in order to care for them. If they have good intentions, then this arrangement can work out well.
Drug-dependent adults can use this opportunity to take advantage of the senior by gaining access to the older person’s bank account or having them sign a power of attorney. The addict may even get the senior to sign over assets or change their will to the addict’s advantage.
All of these examples are often overlooked in the larger picture of the impact of substance abuse on society. This is just one of many more reasons why we have to continue to provide evidence-based treatment, intervention and prevention services to help as many people as possible.
If you have a loved one who is addicted, contact us today to find out how we can help.