HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Elder abuse reports are on the rise in Dauphin County, up 90 percent over the past two years.
“With a 90 percent increase in the numbers, it’s overwhelming to try and keep up with them, but our staff is doing a great job. We substantiate approximately 52 percent of all of these reports,” said Bob Burns, director of the county’s Agency on Aging.
Dauphin County commissioners were brought up to speed on one the county’s most recent arrests Wednesday morning. An elderly man living in a personal care home in Susquehanna Township made his son, 36-year-old Jason Helman of Elizabethtown, his power of attorney. Police say instead of paying his father’s bills, Helman stole $12,000.
Financial exploitation of the elderly is one of the crimes the Dauphin County Elder Abuse Task Force investigates.
“Anytime we have a success story, we like to get that out there, get the word out there to the community that we are here and we are here to help with anyone that has these issues, whether it’s exploitation or any type of abuse or neglect,” said Elena Welsh, Dauphin County’s protective services supervisor.
Welsh says when it comes to financial abuse, there are signs you can look for.
“Bills not being paid, they are starting to get shutoff notices or utilities are actually shut off, or large amounts of money missing that they cannot explain,” Welsh said.
Unfortunately, it is often a family member or friend that takes advantage of the elderly victim.
“We recommend checks and balances if they are going to have someone in charge of their finances or making those decisions, to have two people do that so they can kind of check on one another,” Welsh said.
Dauphin County provides help to elderly victims who want to fight to get their money back.
“We provide free legal representation to any senior who has been financially exploited to assist in the recovery of a civil process of what was lost in these cases,” Commissioner George Hartwick said.
Welsh attributes the rise in elder abuse reports to more awareness.
“Call us. We can talk it through and figure out if it is something we need to look into or not,” she said.
“Those who take advantage of the elderly are going to be brought to justice,” Hartwick said.
If you suspect elder abuse in Dauphin County, which includes anyone 60 years of age or older, call the Dauphin County Elder Abuse Task Force at 717-780-6130 or toll-free at 1-866-SAFE-111.
The task force anticipates they will investigate at least 1,000 elder abuse reports this year.