Elder abuse complaints are up in Milwaukee County during COVID-19 but they often come too late

Posted at 7:05 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 08:05:54-05

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- — The pandemic and the isolation that comes with it has been hard for so many. But for older adults who depend on family, caregivers, or their community, the struggle is at another level.

"By the time we get a report of the cases, people are in more serious conditions," said Dinah LaCaze. She's an Elder Abuse Prevention Program Coordinator with the Milwaukee County Department On Aging.

LaCaze said her agency is seeing reports where the elderly person may not have heat in their homes, or they need immediate medical help.

"They might have open wounds on them or not have been cared for as they could, and their condition is a lot more severe," she explained.

Preliminary data for 2020 shows self-neglect and financial abuse make up the majority of what the county investigates, and in most categories, there's an increase when you compare reports from the year before.

Here is data provided by the Milwaukee County Department on Aging:

Preliminary data for 2020
463 self-neglect cases
323 financial abuse cases
170 neglect cases

Data from 2019
589 self-neglect cases
238 financial abuse cases
146 neglect cases

"People are isolated, and we're not getting to them as soon as possible," LaCaze said.

"The more I'm alone, the more I want to be alone. I start to become anti-social almost," said 71-year-old Nancy Koch of West Allis.

Koch knows all about that isolation, and she isn't surprised to hear these statistics.

"I have yet to get sucked into anything like that, and I hope I don't," Koch said.

Knowing the signs of abuse or neglect is a start. LaCaze explains it can be anything from mail piling up at an elder's home or a senior who looks disheveled. She said we all need to protect this vulnerable population.

"It's the community's responsibility to protect everyone, all of our adults and at-risk and elders," LaCaze said.

To read more about the signs of elder abuse and neglect, click here.

If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, report it immediately by calling (414) 289-6874.

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