Advocates Seek to Prevent Elder Abuse | News

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Advocates Seek to Prevent Elder Abuse

MADISON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Rita Wood was living and working in a senior housing complex in Massachusetts when her daughter suggested she move to Maine and live with her and her husband.

"She sounded real sincere, so I did come back," she recalled.  "Then I found out, big mistake."

Wood says the plan was to buy a house and split the expenses three ways.

"I kept paying and paying, and that was it.  She always had some excuse why she couldn't afford to help," she said.  Five months after settling down in the central Maine town of Madison, her daughter packed up most everything Rita owned, and took off.

"She lied to me and she decided she was going to take all my stuff," said Rita.  "She just loaded it in to the truck and left with it."

Rita was left alone with a crumbling house and a mountain of debt.

"It is hard to believe, but this sort of thing can happen to virtually anybody," explained Dennis Culley, a staff attorney with Legal Services for the Elderly. 

"Her finances I don't think will ever recover from what happened to her," he stated.

Advocates for the elderly estimate more than 33,000 seniors in Maine are the victims of elder abuse each year.  The abuse can come in many forms; neglect, financial exploitation, as well as physical and emotional abuse.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates one in nine seniors is victimized each year, and in the majority of those cases the victim knows their abuser.  In fact, 90% of the time that person is a family member.

"This sort of exploitation hinges on love and affection and trust and it gets us at our weakest point," stated Culley.  "We just have to maintain a healthy skepticism when those close to us ask us to transfer money or assets or income streams to them."

After many months of worry and hardship, Rita Wood has staved off foreclosure, and thanks to the generosity of her neighbors, is back on her feet.

"I appreciate that these people all stepped in and helped me out," said Rita. 

Despite it all, she remains upbeat and positive.

"They are material things, you can always replace," she explained.  "It happened, it is over and done with.....I hope it is done with."

The following advice on avoiding financial exploitation comes from Legal Services for the Elderly:

Anyone could be a target of financial exploitation or theft by those around them. Your home has value and others may try to take it from you. Be sure to protect your home by doing the following:

• Do not let anyone rush or pressure you into signing a document, purchasing something or giving away your money or property. Take your time. Consult with others. If you feel rushed or pressured, pause, talk to others including trusted friends and family members, your banker or attorney, or other professionals such as clergy members or social workers.
• Do not give your home away to someone in exchange for a promise to care for you or allow you to live there as long as you live. These kinds of promises are broken every day and you could find yourself without a home or the help you need. If you need help to stay in your home, contact your local area agency on aging at 1-877-353-3771 to find out more about services in your area.
• Do not be persuaded by family member arguments that you need to give them your home away to protect it from the state. If someone suggests you need to give your home away to protect your home, contact a trusted professional that can help you plan for your future. Call Legal Services for the Elderly at 1-800-750-5353 for free confidential legal help.
• Powers of Attorney are useful and important tools, but can be misused. Only execute a power of attorney after consulting with an attorney and only appoint someone you trust completely. Beware of gifting clauses in power of attorney documents. You can and often should limit the power you give your agent. Grant no more authority than is needed.

More information is available at

Advocates for Maine's senior citizens will be hiiting the airwaves and the streets in advance of Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th, to spread the word about the issue and provide advice to seniors on ways to prevent from becoming a victim.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse, you can contact:

Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services
24 Hour hotline: 1-800-624-8404