We Are Family: When Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation Hit Home is a poignant case study with significant pedagogic value published in the Fall 2012 issue of the American Society on Aging’s quarterly journal, Generations, and on their AgeBlog. We are summarizing this case on our blog because we think it is that important. The story, compellingly and clearly told, illustrates the complexity of elder abuse cases and highlights the critical need for a coordinated response.
We thank Jeannie Jennings Beidler, the author of the blog, for her heroic efforts on behalf of her grandparents and for courageously sharing the details of this personal family story so that we all can learn from it and thus protect other elders from experiencing a similar fate.
Jeannie Jennings Beidler advocated relentlessly for an intervention to stop the elder abuse that was happening to her grandparents. She begins the blog by reminding us that older adults are most commonly at risk of being abused by a family member. This heartbreaking reality is exemplified in her story that starts with her learning that her grandparents were being financially exploited and neglected by her unemployed, alcoholic uncle living with her grandparents. Ms. Beidler made several attempts to bring attention to her grandparents’ poor living conditions and was able to get them hospitalized, only to see them released again into a hostile, unsanitary environment.
Following months of advocating for an intervention and numerous attempts to navigate the many complex systems involved with her grandparents’ case, an intervention happened and her grandparents eventually found residence in a nursing home.
Ms. Beidler says, “My grandfather passed away four months after the intervention and my grandmother joined him eleven months later. Though a tragic story, I find great peace in knowing that they were well cared for and happy during their final months of life. This was my life’s most challenging and demanding period, but it was also the most meaningful. I will forever cherish my memories of my grandparents.”
Robin Roberts, the NYC Elder Abuse Center’s Multidisciplinary Team Coordinator, views this case as an example of how victimized older adults can fall through the cracks of a fragmented response system reacting to abuse in an unsystematic fashion without accountability. A systematic approach, such as that offered by multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), would have increased the likelihood of agency collaboration and accountability and brought about a swifter intervention for Ms. Beidler’s grandparents.
During MDT meetings, all of the systems, organizations and professionals needing to be involved in a case work together over time to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for elder abuse victims and their families. In addition to helping victims, the process of working together creates accountability and helps foster trust among agencies.
The NYC Elder Abuse Center addresses cases like those of Ms. Beidler’s grandparents through MDTs and case consultation services. We would love to hear how other communities are furthering this work. How can we improve our elder justice system to guarantee the safety of those most vulnerable to abuse and ensure justice for its victims? Please post your responses here! We look forward to hearing from you.
Click here to visit Jeannie Jennings Beidler’s online journal and learn more about this case.
by Alexandra Pearson, Communication Specialist, NYCEAC
I am a licensed fiduciary in Tucson, AZ. I am appointed in cases such as those you reference. I am happy to discuss elder abuse, fraud, and the seeming inability to care for the elders in this society in an effective way. I have cases where my beloved clients have been financially exploited by family, professionals, and where they have been permitted to live in an environment that no one should have to. I could go on and on and on about what I see, and work with but I can tell you, we are all aging and unless those who turn their heads want to end up, God forbid, in a similar situation, something MUST MUST MUST be done to advocate for our aged. It starts with ME! I am their voice, I am their muscle, I (and others who do what I do) am the one to protect them from those in society, family and strangers alike, who abuse and neglect our senior community. Their stories, their experiences, their loneliness, their sadness, their frustrations, are all to be heard! My thanks to Ms. Beidler for her work. The stories told are real and profound. We give money to the ASPCA (not minimizing this organization in any way), to various save the children organizations, etc., and a subject as powerful and timely as senior abuse has been overlooked – I wonder if it’s too ugly to discuss? I am blessed to live in Arizona which has a powerful legal process for taking control of these situations and that’s where I come in as a Supreme Court licensed private fiduciary. A job I am so proud to do.
Patricia, thank you so much for sharing your story and experiences in the field. Case studies like the one described in this blog are all too common, yet so infrequently discussed properly in the mainstream media. As you said, stopping abuse starts with each individual. Your work is inspiring, so please continue sharing your professional reflections on our blog. Together we can make a difference and prevent abuse!
Thank you so much for sharing this list of resources that help fight back against elder abuse. Most people don’t realize this but elder abuse has become somewhat of an epidemic, with poor elderly care becoming more and more common. This is especially true for those being cared for within a facility. In running a walk in bathtub company, I hear about these situations and it is truly saddening. The best thing we can do is help educate people on this problem and set clear expectations for what is normal and what is not.
Hi Yale – Thank you for your comment. You are so right about the elder abuse epidemic and the need to continue raising awareness. Thank you for sharing your experience and raising awareness of elder abuse. We look forward to continuing the conversation.
[…] blog, A Profound Elder Abuse Case Study from the American Society on Aging, presents a poignant personal story illustrating the complexity of elder abuse cases, the […]
It really makes me sick that this is even something that people have to worry about. But, the sad truth is that there are people who do this kind of horrible thing. I really want to thank you and your blog for helping to raise awareness about this awful topic.
Hi Stephanie – thanks so much for your comment. You’re correct in saying that elder abuse is a very upsetting reality for many older adults in our state and country. One of the most important things we can do is work together to raise elder abuse. We are glad you find our blog helpful – please let us know if you have ideas for topics that you would like to see covered. We welcome questions, comments and ideas. Thank you again for connecting. Cara