Elder Abuse At All Time High, Officials Blame Opioid Abuse

medicineElder abuse in Massachusetts has spiked to an all-time high within the past five years.

Law enforcement and elder advocates believe this is due in part to the increasing state wide opioid crisis. They believe more and more adult children are becoming addicted to these substances and exploiting their elder parents without their knowledge.

Abuse reports have risen 37% since 2011, with 1,000 additional cases reported every year. The Executive Office of Elder Affairs for the state of Massachusetts noted 25,000 last year alone.

Opioid addiction has become widespread all over the state by users young and old. Doctors and nurses have explained that these addictions take over the lives of the user so they typically move back in with their parents.

With the easy access to their monthly Social Security and pension checks, the elderly parents are becoming victims without even noticing.

These financial repercussions are serious. The MetLife Mature Market Institute put the annual financial loss suffered by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.6 billion in 2009.

In many cases, these situations even turn violent. Marian T. Ryan, Middlesex District Attorney, is advising police and firemen to check for signs of abuse when responding to in home calls, such as unusual bruising on their wrists and forearms or no food in the refrigerator.

Ryan’s office has seen 10 cases in the past month alone of elder abuse. Children and grandchildren have been caught pawning jewelry, silver, and antiques to get cash for their next hit.

Middlesex police have even responded to a case where a bed-bound elderly mother was found to have holes in her ceiling above her bed. Turns out they were bullet holes and the son would shoot them during his opioid-fulled rages.

Emergency medical service workers are typically not trained to look for warning signs of elder abuse. But now, thanks to Ryan’s warnings, they notice factors that they may have missed before.

Michael Woronka, chief executive of Action Ambulance Service in Wilmington tells The Boston Globe, “This training [by Ryan] is causing us to pause now, and forcing us to say we need to be open to the more social and psychological side of the situation.”

Elder abuse can come in many forms, but in Massachusetts it is defined as physical, emotional, or financial explorations of residents 60 years and older.

Earlier this week, a financial budget of $39.5 billion was approved for the fiscal year of 2017 by the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee. Included are new proposals to increase spending to treat opioid addiction state wide.

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