Police are investigating a case of elder abuse that happened just before Christmas in Pennsylvania. The 76-year-old victim was found to have taken only two showers in the past 12 years, according to police in Forward Township.
The daughter of the woman had tried to make contact with her mother, who was left in the care of her ex-daughter-in-law, Lori Giacomelli, and Giacomelli’s two adult children.
When other family members went to check on her, they found the woman with matted hair, and they said she was unable to lift her head.
Such instances of abuse are being reported in greater numbers across the United States, and the trend has been linked to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Pennsylvania case, the woman was found sitting on a couch in front of a broken window covered by cardboard.
“They stated that (the) couch, too, was soaked with urine and feces,” officer Zlatan Avdic told local television station WPXI.
In the country’s far south, Shirley Gibson’s property in Miami had been in her family for more than 100 years. Now in her 80s, Gibson had hoped to pass the property on to her niece and nephew. But three people forged this octogenarian’s name on a deed and sold the property in a virtual transaction.
Police arrested three people and charged them with theft from a person 65 years and older, according to Florida law enforcement officials.
Such crimes have become commonplace during the pandemic, contributing to the surge in elder abuse. Social distancing measures “can greatly limit the ability for caregivers to provide care in person, and in general limit opportunities for ongoing elder abuse to be detected by others”, according to a study by the Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
Elder abuse includes physical, sexual or psychological abuse, as well as financial exploitation or neglect by caregivers, according to the study.
Another study, published by Yale University researchers in January, found that in April and May 2020-when all states issued stay-at-home orders-more than 1 in 5 older people living in houses or apartments reported abuse. That’s an increase of nearly 84 percent over pre-pandemic prevalence estimates.
The number of elder-fraud victims has also increased, by 55 percent in 2020 from 2019, according to a report on internet crime by the FBI.
Financial institutions in 2020 filed with the federal government more than 62,000 suspicious activity reports involving elder financial exploitation to the tune of more than $3.4 billion, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said.
Elder-abuse cases have been on the rise for years due in part to an aging population, and now the shortage of licensed caregivers in long-term care facilities is worsening the problem.