On October 1, 2013, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) held its first Forum on Polyvictimization in Later Life. The event in St. Paul, Minnesota was attended by elder abuse experts from around the country. This Examiner had the honor of being invited to participate.
The team solicited research and practice examples from a range of experts. The Oct 1 Forum deepened the team’s understanding of the research findings.
A common theme throughout the discussions was that elder abuse rarely occurs as single incident or as a single form of abuse. As with child abuse and domestic violence, abuse patterns repeat. Multiple forms of abuse occur together.
Social isolation is often an indicator of more broad ranging elder abuse. Perpetrators with designs on an older person’s assets will often isolate the victim from family and friends.
Social isolation is itself a form of elder abuse. Preventing an elder from having visitors or phone calls, telling callers that the elder is not available is a common tactic to separate the elder from loved ones. Social isolation is recognized as a form of psychological abuse.
In California, isolating an elder is a crime under Penal Code 368. On August 19, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 937, clarifying that conservatees retain the right to visitation, phone calls, and personal mail.
Investigators attending the forum were encouraged to “look beyond the surface.” They will often find that psychological abuse is accompanied by financial abuse and perhaps physical abuse or sexual abuse. By “digging deeper” investigators can find the forms of abuse that are not as readily seen.
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NCPEA forum discussed social isolation as psychological elder abuse