Based on the calls received by the Office on Aging in the past few years, suspicions of financial exploitation, scams, and fraud are the most common forms of elder abuse committed in the Commonwealth.
According to Walter Manglona, Office on Aging director, fraud usually revolves around the misuse of an elderly’s personal checks, credit cards, or accounts.
It also involves stealing cash, income checks, or household goods, forging the elderly’s signature and engaging in identity theft.
Scams, meanwhile, are made up of announcements of a “prize” that the elderly person has won, but must pay money to claim, invitations to phony charities, and investment fraud.
Speaking at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Saipan at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Manglona said his office will not tolerate abuse against the man’amko and implores the public to report anyone who mistreats the elderly to authorities.
Manglona assured Saipan Tribune that his office and other agencies are constantly on the lookout for any elder abuse in the CNMI.
Other types of elderly abuse are physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, psychological and non-verbal abuse, and neglect.
Physical abuse is the non-accidental use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury, or impairment. Such abuse includes not only physical assaults such as hitting or shoving but the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints, or confinement.
Manglona said signs of physical abuse include unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, and bleeding, sprained or broken bones, and injuries that happen over and over.
Another telltale sign of physical abuse is if an elderly doesn’t want to see a doctor about his or her wounds.
Emotional or verbal abuse, meanwhile, include intimidation through yelling or threats, humiliation and ridicule, and habitual blaming or scapegoating.
Psychological or non-verbal abuse is ignoring an elderly person, isolating him or her from friends or activities, and terrorizing or menacing an elderly person.
Manglona said neglect is failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation and it constitutes more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse.
“It can be active (intentional) or passive (unintentional, based on factors such as ignorance or denial that an elderly charge needs as much care as he or she does,” he said.
Manglona said the Office on Aging encourages people to report elder abuse. He said CNMI Public Law No. 9-21 provides for the protection of the elderly from physical and mental cruelty.
“In support of the program, we continue to bring awareness and report abuse to the Department of Public Safety. The Office on Aging is working with the Administration for Community Living in the implementation of the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System or NAMRS. This voluntary reporting system will establish, for the first time, a national data resource on the extent and nature of the maltreatment investigated by APS programs,” said Manglona.
In addition, the Office on Aging provides respite care and other assistance to caregivers of the elderly.
“Under the stress of constant caregiving, even the most loving family member can lose patience and possibly mistreat a patient. Sometimes family caregivers become so exhausted that they neglect important aspects of the patient’s care. The respite care provided by the Office on Aging can help the family caregiver to stay healthy, physically and mentally, and thus provide better care,” he said.
Manglona said the community can report elder abuse by contacting the Office on Aging, Department of Public Safety, Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy System, Inc., Micronesian Legal Service Corp., Attorney General’s Office, etc.
“There will be consequences if anyone is caught abusing an elderly person. If anyone witnessed or suspects elder abuse, please report it immediately. If you suspect that an elderly is in danger, you must call the police right away. If you are unsure about what constitutes an abuse and need additional information, do not hesitate to call our office for more information. Please help us continue to protect our man’amko here in the CNMI,” he told Saipan Tribune.
The Office on Aging’s telephone numbers are 233-1321 and 233-1322 (Saipan), 433-9220 (Tinian), and 532-2656 (Rota).