Jewelry theft and financial abuse are most common problems

Deputy District Attorney Greenwood, head of the elder abuse prosecution unit in San Diego County, has never been busier.  He credits the testimony on March 2nd of 90 year old actor Mickey Rooney.

“Within two days of Mickey Rooney testifying before Congress on March 2nd, my phone was ringing,” Greenwood said to a crowd of investigators, attorneys, and elder care professionals attending an educational seminar at Somerford Place Alzheimer’s Assisted Living.  The seminar was sponsored by Somerford Place and At Home Care Solutions, owned by RSF resident Lauren Reynolds.

Rooney’s testimony about being deprived of food and medicine, allegedly by his step-children, brought elder abuse into the national spotlight, Greenwood said, illustrating that it’s a growing national problem.

“You are going to see many more people who are potential victims,” Greenwood explained, based on demographics.  In San Diego County, about 16 % of the population is over 65, roughly half a million people.

“The problem is that people are being looted in San Diego County every day,” he said.

He explained that jewelry is the number one item being stolen from seniors in San Diego.  One recent case involved a housecleaner/caregiver in Poway.  When a homeowner reported the jewelry missing, sheriff deputies installed a video camera in the bedroom and actually caught the housekeeper on tape taking items from a drawer.

“Turned out that housekeeper worked for 12 other people,” Greenwood said, “and 9 of the 12 had jewelry missing.”

His advice is that seniors keep an inventory of jewelry including pictures.  Valuables should be kept in a locked drawer or safe.   And he said there is a pattern for whom is doing the stealing.

“The #1 culprit is a convicted felon turned caregiver,” he explained.

There is no law requiring background checks on caregivers and some unscrupulous agencies hire them based only on “self-reporting” of any past criminal history. (At Home Care Solution, a fully certified home care agency, runs local, state and federal background checks on all of their employees.)

Secondly, Greenwood said, adult sons who are lazy, unemployed and addicted to drugs or alcohol tend to be the thieves, followed by tradesmen who are in the home to provide a service.

“In one case, a carpet cleaner used his high powered hose to actually vacuum the jewelry out of the drawer and into his van,” Greenwood said.

The criminals prey on confusion and fear.  One local man called up an elderly woman, claimed to be her grandson and convinced her that he needed $100,000 to be wired to China.  The fake grandson told the woman he desperately needed the money for a legal settlement.  Greenwood blamed the bank for allowing the suspect transaction to go through.

There is an Adult Protective Services hotline to call for those who suspect elder abuse, 1-800-510-2020.  However, Greenwood admitted the strapped state budget has left the hotline understaffed and the wait can be up to an hour. He hopes the state legislature will soon pass a pending bill that would allow reports of elder abuse to be made online.

Somerford Place, located in Encinitas, provides licensed dementia and Alzheimer’s residential care and can be reached at 760-479-1818.

At Home Nursing Care provides quality home elder care in San Diego County and Los Angeles County for those facing a loss of independence due to age or health related factors. Learn more about our Alzheimer’s and Dementia care in San Diego. Contact us at 760-634-8000.