BBB cautions consumers with elderly relatives to be on the lookout for elder abuse

June 13, 2014

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is Sunday June, 15, and Better Business Serving Southern Arizona is urging Southern Arizonans who have parents being looked after by home care professionals to be alert for signs of elder abuse.

There have been several incidents in the Tucson area in the past several years where caretakers were arrested for victimizing the elderly in their care- both financially, and sometimes even physically.

While the vast majority of caretakers in Southern Arizona are completely dedicated to providing the best care they can, consumers should be wary of criminals who enter the industry with the sole intention to victimize the elderly.  

“Just like abuse of children, many cases of elder abuse go unreported until something tragic happens,” Margie Lannon, owner of Homewatch CareGivers told BBB. “Many people just don’t recognize the signs and therefore the abuse may go on for some time.” 

Many elderly people have been threatened to not report abuse, and are fearful of speaking up, Lannon added. In fact, the National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that only a small fraction of elder abuse cases are reported to law enforcement.

How can you help to ensure that your elderly family members aren’t being abused or taken advantage of?

“Visit family members often because bumps and bruises can’t be seen over the phone,” Lannon said. “Meet with caregivers regularly to let them know that you’re overseeing the quality of care being provided.”

Lannon also suggested that families looking for a caregiver for an elderly relative hire an agency to conduct a background check on all the caregiver’s employees.

BBB and Homewatch CareGivers offer the following tips to help consumers recognize and prevent elder abuse:

What is elder abuse?

  • Physical abuse – that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery and inappropriate restraint.
  • Psychological abuse – that inflicts mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Sexual abuse – non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Financial abuse – the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or resources.
  • Neglect – the failure to provide care to an elderly person who needs that care.
  • Self-neglect – the failure to provide for one’s own essential needs.

Warning signs

  • Unexplained bruises, broken bones, abrasions or burns may become more frequent.
  • Bedsores can be an indication of neglect or poor hygiene. 
  • Depression or strained/tense relationships.
  • Sudden or unexplained changes in financial situation may be an indicator that they are being exploited by a caregiver or a family member. 

Be Aware, Alert

  • Never give out personal information like credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone.
  • Don’t reply to mail that offer free gifts or special “opportunities.”
  • Use special care when shopping online; instead of a credit card consider using a prepaid debit card while making online purchases.
  • Don’t let door-to-door sales people into your home.
  • Don’t respond to “get-rich quick” schemes.
  • Don’t respond to someone you don’t know, even if they call you by your first name to gain your trust.
  • Don’t respond to offers to “rescue” a person from mortgage difficulties or foreclosure.
  • Keep bank statements, personal papers, and credit cards hidden. Thieves have been known to take pictures of credit cards while standing in a checkout line.

For more information about elder abuse, and to find a business you can trust visit