MILWAUKEE — Physically, we know seniors are one of the most vulnerable populations during COVID-19.
To keep them safe, nursing homes cut down or canceled visitors, and families limited contact with their loved ones.
That isolation serves to protect, but it could be a double-edged sword.
Dinah LaCaze with Milwaukee County Department on Aging, says reports of financial exploitation or abuse during COVID-19, are on the rise. The office has seen a 15 percent increase in complaints in the first three months of this year compared to last. This data doesn't take into account abuse reports during the pandemic in April, May, or June.
"Now they're exploding," LaCaze said. "Abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and self-neglect."
"People who are regularly checking in or seeing people at church are no longer seeing people at church so they don't really know that they aren't doing well," she continued.
LaCaze says the sobering part is, in 95 percent of cases, the elderly victim is close with their abuser. In some instances, it's a caregiver or even a family member.
The department just referred a neglect case over to the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office.
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"The individual ended up with multiple wounds all over their body," LaCaze said. "It shouldn't be happening. It should never be happening."
Attorney Eaman Guerin is doing video visits with his elderly clients during COVID-19.
"I'm usually brought in when there are accusations of fraud or exploitation," Guerin said.
If they live at a nursing home or independently, Guerin recommends having their mail sent to a separate location so it doesn't end up in the wrong hands.
"Make sure that any private financial information is kept out of their possession," he said.
If they live alone and you can't visit, he suggests calls or video chats to check-in or installing a doorbell camera so you can see who comes to the house.
He says someone needs to be paying attention.
"Hopefully there's a good neighbor out there who can watch out to assist to ensure that senior who hasn't been out in a while is okay," Guerin continued.
LaCaze points out a complaint likely won't come from the victim.
"They want to be able to maintain their independence, so they're not going to call for help that's why we need others to call," she said.
If you suspect elder abuse in Milwaukee County, call 414-289-6660.
If you're over the age of 60, call 414-289-6874.