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Fighting back against elder abuse

By Melissa Walker

From all outward appearances, George, an independent man in his 80s, seemed the last person who could be taken for a ride financially. Apart from being visually impaired, he had no health problems to speak of and lived on his own. With the help of the bank, he managed his money and was meticulous about paying his bills. Then he was befriended by a young man in his apartment building.

At first, the young man's intentions seemed genuine enough. He offered George rides to the pharmacy and grocery store, which the elderly man appreciated. Before long, he was driving George to the bank and even managed to pass himself off as George's grandson to the teller.

The young man started hanging out with his friends at George's place. Then the young man lost his job and moved in. Over the next few months, he took over George's mail, started taking all his phone calls, and got George to give him power of attorney for property. For the first time in his life, George's monthly bills and rent weren't paid. When George's daughter, who lived in eastern Canada, phoned her father, a young man answered, claiming he was George's grandson.

That's one kind of elder abuse. There are many other varieties, some obvious, some subtle. Seniors may be vulnerable to physical or sexual abuse, emotional, financial or even abuse by ordinary neglect. Often no one wants to talk about it. Seniors' advocates say the church community could do a lot to reduce abuse by acknowledging it happens and being better prepared to intervene....

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