Webinar presenters Talitha Guinn Shaver and Jenefer Duane answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Elder Fraud Prevention and Response Networks: Building Collaboration to Fight Exploitation and Abuse. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: In your opinion, how much is substance abuse costing the financial well-being of retirees? In other words, is substance abuse, a big issue for retirees and can you give us a bit of a sense of how big of an issue it might be?
Jenefer Duane: We don’t have any specific data on that at the Bureau. The Bureau has not generated any data that I’m aware of on that. So, I wouldn’t really be able to comment. But I do know that it is referenced frequently at like American Society on Aging conferences. And in the sort of aging sector, it is brought up as an issue and there are other issues around financial exploitation that have been referenced concerning older people’s medications being stolen by family members who are substance abusers and some older people who have substance abuse problems and the effects that have on their ability to manage their life and remain independent. But as far as specific data goes, I’m sorry, I don’t have any.
Talitha Guinn-Shaver: I was just going to add on to that, that there has not been a lot of quantifiable research on that topic at this point, but in my former role, as the Director of the San Francisco Elder Abuse Forensic Center, I can tell you that in the cases we saw whether there was a substance abuse issues with a client, with their caregiver, with a family member, with a roommate, with somebody who was renting a room in their home, or any person close to the elder it always puts our elder clients at greater risk for elder abuse. This was true of any addiction issue including gambling addiction.
Audience Question: Can you talk about the differences between a multi-disciplinary team and a network?
Jenefer Duane: A multi-disciplinary team is a network, and we use the term network as a catch-all for all different types of teams. Whether they are task forces, whether they are elder abuse coordinating councils, whether they are multi-disciplinary teams, or whether they are financial abuse specialist teams. They are all networks of different professionals, different disciplines of professionals that come together. And so, we use the term network as a catch-all, there is no difference.
Audience Question: From an evidence-based practice perspective, do you have any information about what an average response time might be once an abuse case comes to the attention of a team member?
Talitha Guinn-Shaver: This is going to vary widely. The rules that govern Adult Protective Services vary from state to state. Each state has its own rules and mandates that cover everything from what types of elder abuse is investigated to what age group is considered protected. APS generally plays a pivotal role on local MDTs and their intake and investigative procedures will heavily influence the work that you do as a team. For most of the MDTs that I have worked with they have a couple of levels of urgency that they can assign to a case. If there is nothing urgent with a case, it will usually be place on the docket for the next team meeting. If there is something urgent about the case, most teams have some function by which they can call an emergency meeting between their usual case review meetings. If you feel that there is too much lag time between intaking cases and having them presented at a case review meeting, my suggestion is that you see if your team can meet more often. Consider virtual team meeting options for emergent cases.
Audience Question: Maria says given the current social distancing requirements, are you seeing any teams getting together through virtual retreats?
Talitha Guinn-Shaver: Yes. I did a consultation with a team in Texas that was just forming at the time that COVID19 really took hold here in the US. This team shifted their planning efforts and made all of their meetings including a planned retreat, virtual. It’s not ideal, but, yes, teams are doing it, and it can be done.
Jenefer Duane: I might add on to that a little bit, where, it’s only been a couple of months, and people the responders have been extremely busy and overwhelmed in many cases. And I’m very happy to hear about this group in Texas. And I’m sure there are more that are carrying on and using their network to navigate the issues and challenges they’re facing under these circumstances. But one thing I had hoped mentioned earlier, and this seems like good timing, is that the development guide that we have created, if you’re planning a network, a new network planning, to start one, would like to start one, or you have one. The tools are all designed to be used remotely anyway. All of the retreats that we facilitated were all planned remotely. They were in other states. I was in Washington, DC, or working remotely and having meetings with stakeholders who were not very rarely where they all in the same room, they were in their offices, calling in and planning to establish the network. So, I think that the materials for our development guide suit themselves very well for planning a retreat remotely. And in all of those retreats were held in person. But I think now we need to be flexible and adaptable and between our tools, which started out as a remote planning tool. And I would say Talitha’s a great program for how to go forward operating remotely between the two, I think, that there’s a great blueprint for going forward. And all of these networks always are build to suit. There’s not a one size fits all model for them. So, it’s really up to you and your partners to decide how you want to do it and how often you want to do it and what you want to do. What your priorities are and what your activities are. And you know, there definitely will be challenges around. And I’ve heard this from the streets, so to speak, that people are struggling with how to get information out to seniors about frauds and scams around coronavirus because they can’t visit them, they can’t gather them in a room at a senior center. I’ve received numerous requests for information about how do we get information to seniors. And I think that seniors are increasingly isolated as a result of this. So, we have lots of challenges to face, but I think that if we have the technology and we tick the boxes around safety and security and confidentiality, etc. We can do it. We could do it.
Audience Question: There are charities that are taking advantage of the elderly by bombarding them with mailings, calls, and e-mails with requests to donate, requests to do not contact the elder really do not seem to work, and Stephen is wondering, is there a point of contact in my local government that may be able to help us address this issue?
Talitha Guinn-Shaver: We are seeing a lot of scams around the COVID situation. I know that both on the Department of Justice and the FBI websites, they have a lot of information about these scams including where to report them. So, if you do see them in your community, I suggest going onto the Department of Justice website, and looking for the COVID scams page, or the FBI webpage and connecting and reporting it there. There are an exceptional number of scams right now because so many things are happening in the world that con artist are looking to take advantage of.
Jenefer Duane: And I can add a couple of things to that, we have on our website at consumerfinance.gov. There is a whole section on COVID and several blogs actually on from the Office for Older Americans and they’re very dense with lots of information about frauds and scams and ideas for response, etc. On the FTC is also collecting information on the Federal Trade Commission. They have their sentinel reporting database, so it’s good to get in there and report. I think that law enforcement is scrambling but as linking a lot of this together, everybody is scrambling. But the more information we can get, the better position we are to respond. I want to mention a couple of other scams, there have been stimulus checks scam. There are all kinds of products scams around cures and air filters for your air filtration systems for houses, for getting COVID out of the air, and it’s and elders are apparently particularly targeted for this because of their wanting to see their grandkids, etc. So, yes, there are lots of frauds and scams. I also know that the Administration for Community Living, which has the Administration for Aging within it, has a central repository of information, on the COVID virus and resources for senior service providers, elder justice advocates, etc. But we have also a very robust, a set of information on our website under the blog’s consumerfinance.gov. If you get there, if you click on the COVID banner on the homepage, it should take you straight there.
Audience Question: So, are those same sites that you just mentioned, would they be appropriate for maybe over-aggressive marketing to the elderly with organizations that are maybe legitimate organizations, but they just, they won’t stop bombarding with e-mails and calls to, and requests to donate? Is it basically the same mechanisms, the same recommendations you make?
Jenefer Duane: Well, I think, yes. I think that older people need support to say no and you know there’s, it’s complicated because we don’t see what’s going on behind closed doors. And this is part of the reason why the calls have been coming in, is how can we get information to older people so that they can be aware that these are frauds and scams or that they should not feel pressured ever to spend money. Anytime they’re being pressured or pushed, they should say no. And then of course if there’s cognitive impairment involved for the older person that makes them more vulnerable. And so, it’s, I don’t, I can’t really say that there is a silver bullet for any of this. Communities need to wrap around older people and support them and we say that now knowing that we also need to protect them from exposure to the virus. So, it’s complex and difficult. One of the things that I have heard about is that AARP has had some activity, the holding weekly phone calls where older people will dial in and hear about the fraud or scam of the week. And I do not know if that’s national or not. But that might be worth looking into. I’ve heard about it up in Maryland, and I do think it goes beyond Maryland. I think, when it comes to aggressive salespeople if you hear about that and you’re an advocate, I would personally, I think what I would do is call my local district attorney’s office or the Attorney General’s office get to the consumer fraud section. Let them know that this client is being harassed by this business entity. They may or may not have the bandwidth to respond but I recall when I worked also in California, in Northern California, we had a fantastic consumer advocate in the District Attorney’s Office who would write very strongly worded letters to perfectly legitimate businesses to tell him to back off.
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