New law helps protect elderly


POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hawaii has no specific elder abuse law but seniors may get more protection under a new law taking effect next month, says Jim Pietsch, University of Hawaii law professor who supervises the UH Elderly Help Project.





        » Never respond to any correspondence that's unusual or from someone you don't know.

» Never leave outgoing mail in the mailbox with the flag up; give it to the letter carrier or drop it in an official blue mailbox.


» Tear up convenience checks enclosed with credit card statements.


» Check your monthly bank and credit card statements.


Source: Brian Shaughnessy, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Honolulu Detective John McCarthy




The state has an adult protective services act but in drafting the legislation the word “;elderly”; was changed to “;dependent,”; he pointed out.

A person must be dependent upon someone abusing them to qualify for protective services, he said, noting, “;A 102-year-old victim called us because she didn't qualify under the dependent adult protective services act.”;

The new law replaces the word “;dependent”; with “;vulnerable,”; he said. The Department of Human Services will have jurisdiction to investigate abuse of a vulnerable adult.

Pietsch and Mary Twomey, co-director of the Center of Excellence in Elder Abuse and neglect, University of California, Irvine, said a national Elder Justice Act is needed.

Protection of the elderly is America's “;last frontier”; for legal reform, said Twomey, an elder abuse and neglect specialist.

She said a national law is needed to get national coordination on the problems and funding to train police, adult protective services workers and others concerned with abuse and exploitation of older people.

She urged participants at a Hawaii Anti-Fraud Conference this spring at the Hawaii Convention Center to ask Hawaii's congressional delegation to support the Elder Justice Act.

Pietsch said many agencies are working together in Hawaii to fight elder financial exploitation crimes.

Representatives of those agencies told about 200 people at the conference how to protect themselves from financial scams, mail fraud, identity and credit card theft, investment schemes and other threats.

Honolulu Detective John McCarthy said fraud is the biggest growing crime and underreported crime in America. “;Older people are victims of real money losses”; because they have real assets, he said.

“;People who exploit the elderly generally are known to you,”; McCarthy said, describing cases of older people victimized by family members, friends or employees.

Many people don't check their bank and credit card statements, he said, noting an elderly woman lost $100,000 in six months because her grandson was draining her account and she didn't notice it.