World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Help in Your Community

By Crystal Baldwin

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, please read and share: “Finding Help,” a guidon help options for Vermonters experiencing elder abuse, exploitation and neglect. 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Building Strong Support for Elders - National Center on Elder Abuse - My Community, your community - free of elder abuse
National Center on Elder Abuse – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

When considering care for our loved ones, there is a lot to think about . Who should help manage their money?  Should someone live with them, and who? Can we afford to hire http://weaad.elderabuseontario.com/resources/toolkits/an in-home caregiver?  Should we seek out assisted living care, or think about an adult day option?  Once everything is finally sorted out, we can exhale.  But should we?  As our parents checked in on our wellbeing as children, once our elders are set and settled, we must continue to check in on them, too, with great care and concern for their wellbeing. 

On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we must be vigilant and aware of the risk factors and signs of elder abuse. We must serve as supportive connections to older adults in our communities to prevent their social isolation—one of the main elder abuse risk factors (ncea.acl.gov/FAQ.aspx).  As someone who has cared for a vulnerable elder, I know firsthand that it can be difficult to know where to turn for help, advice, and guidance.   

Finding Help: Abuse, Exploitation & Neglect in Later Life - link to guide
Finding Help – A resource guide produced by the VT Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living

Last fall, the Vermont Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative and the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living launched the Finding Help: Abuse, Exploitation and Neglect in Later Life help guide, a resource for Vermont’s most vulnerable and those who care for them.  The guide walks through how to recognize abuse and exploitation, help options outside of government, as well as how to report elder abuse or exploitation to government for response.  This resource outlines free services provided by an array of organizations and state agencies, including: 

  • Elder abuse hotlines and helplines 
  • Case managers and social workers 
  • Domestic & sexual violence organizations 
  • Legal services; and 
  • Other community-based organizations and professionals 

You can help prevent elder abuse and exploitation.  I encourage you to share and save a copy of this guide and keep it among your most referenced resources.  Also, consider printing out the following abbreviated resource guide and share it with the elders in your life.  It includes some of the primary referral resource hotlines and can be kept handy close to the phone for easy reference.   

Resources for VTer's 60+
Vermont 2-1-1
VT Area Agencies on Aging 1-800-642-5119
VT Adult Protective Svcs 1-800-564-1612
VT Office of the Public Guardian 1-800-828-2143
UVMMC Case Mgmt and Social Work Team 1-802-847-3553
SASH 1-802-863-2224
Blueprint for Health - contact a Primary Care Physician
Resources for Vermonters 60+. Print and share.

Resources: 
National Center on Elder Abuse: https://ncea.acl.gov/FAQ.aspx  

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: Not FDA Approved

By Crystal Baldwin

My dad lost his hearing while working as a fighter jet mechanic on an aircraft carrier. As the jets took off and landed, he was uncomfortably close to their reverberating buzzsaw rumble.  The resulting ringing in his ears (tinnitus) proved a constant source of agitation the rest of his life. When I talked to him about a potential solution, he would shrug and say, “Hearing aids are expensive, and they aren’t going to make the ringing go away.”  He wanted an easy solution and a quick fix to bring back his hearing.  If someone made the promise that he could have his hearing returned with the purchase of a low-cost over-the counter device, he probably would have bought it. 

Such quick fix products are on the market today.  The trouble is, unlike traditional FDA-approved hearing aids, which a consumer would purchase through the process of visiting their doctor and being fitted, the quick fix over-the-counter hearing aids come with no FDA backing—even if they say they do.  Congress authorized the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss in 2017.  At the time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was directed to establish regulations: standards for safety, consumer labeling, and manufacturing protections.  FDA regulations of over-the-counter hearing aids have not yet been established. 

When considering purchasing hearing aids or similar products, it is recommended to: 

Be evaluated by a medical professional or licensed hearing specialist to determine if an over-the-counter hearing aid will help you. 
Watch out for and avoid over-the-counter hearing aids that make false claims about the product, such as stating they are FDA-approved, endorsed by the FDA, or have an “FDA Registration Certificate”. 
Do your homework! If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  
Research the hearing aid seller on impartial review sites. 
Consider all reviews, being skeptical of short reviews and extremely positive testimonials and reviews on a company’s website. 
Be skeptical of promises of deals that are much cheaper than what consumers would pay for a traditional FDA-approved hearing aid. 
Question free-trial offers, which claim the product is free to try for a set period but will bill you at the end of the free trial.
  • Be evaluated by a medical professional or licensed hearing specialist to determine if an over-the-counter hearing aid will help you. 
  • Watch out for and avoid over-the-counter hearing aids that make false claims about the product, such as stating they are FDA-approved, endorsed by the FDA, or have an “FDA Registration Certificate”. 
  • Do your homework! If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  
    • Research the hearing aid seller on impartial review sites. 
    • Consider all reviews, being skeptical of short reviews and extremely positive testimonials and reviews on a company’s website. 
    • Be skeptical of promises of deals that are much cheaper than what consumers would pay for a traditional FDA-approved hearing aid. 
    • Question free-trial offers, which claim the product is free to try for a set period but will bill you at the end of the free trial.  

If you are having an issue with an over-the-counter hearing device, Vermont consumers can file a complaint with the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program.   

Resource: US Food and Drug Administration: Hearing Aids: https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/consumer-products/hearing-aids  

Grandchild Imposter “Grandparent” Scam in Vermont

Contributing Writer:  Crystal Baldwin

“Grandma, it’s me, I am in prison…”
“Grandpa, I’m in the hospital. I need help…”
“Nanna and Poppa, I had a bad car accident, and people are injured…”

No matter what the scammers say when they initiate the “Grandparent” scam, the introduction is sure to spike emotion.  That is what they hope.  They call claiming to be one of your most cherished loved ones—your grandchild—and ignite fear that those you care about are in dire need.  With emotions running high and deep, how can you not engage with the call, stay on the line, and find out more? You are worried and feel helpless because all you have to validate this story is the phone in your hand and the fear of what if.  What if you do nothing and your grandchild really is in trouble?

It is so hard. What if the very phone where you received the call is also what will reveal the mystery?  What if all you needed was your phone and a reminder to slow down? Would receiving this daunting call be any easier?

Today, our office issued an alert about the grandchild imposter scam, commonly referenced as the grandparent scam, because it targets grandparents and their unwavering generosity and care for their loved ones.  This scam is successful because the scammers know our grandparents care, and they know the psychology behind how difficult it is to think through problems when emotions are high.  

Infographic produced by the Consumer Assistance Program. Share it with those you care about.

When you receive one of these jarring calls, here is what you can do:

Take steps to verify by remembering SLOW: 

SSlow down.  The scammers urge you to act urgently. Don’t.

LLog the call.  For your assurance, write down the phone number of the caller and hang up.

OOne call. Make a call to your grandchild or another who can verify your grandchild’s whereabouts and well-being.

WWho cares? Call another person in your life who cares about you. Know that you can call CAP at 1-800-649-2424.  We care and can help identify scams.

Before this scam happens to you, you can take steps now to create a scam action plan with your family.  Keep the SLOW reminder near your phone. With family, consider creating an uncommon family code word or PIN that you agree to not share publicly.  Make a phone tree of reliable contacts to call if a scam like this is received.  Act now to prevent future loss.

Help us stop these scams by sharing this information with those you care about.       

If you have lost money to this scam, please contact the Consumer Assistance Program right away at 800-649-2424.

For more information on the Attorney General’s efforts to support and protect older Vermonters, visit the webpage of the Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative.

ALERT: Stimulus Payments Should Not Be Taken from Long-Term Care Residents Who Receive Medicaid

While Medicaid recipients may have to sign over resources, in some circumstances, to the long-term care facilities where they reside, this does NOT apply to current federal economic impact payments, or ‘stimulus checks.’ 

Under the CARES Act, the stimulus checks are a tax credit. Tax credits do not count as income or resources for federal benefits programs, like Medicaid. Nursing homes, assisted living residences, and residential care homes cannot take that money from residents just because they are on Medicaid. Simply receiving a stimulus check should not change a resident’s monthly payment or cause a resident to have “too much” savings for Medicaid eligibility. Recipients may keep the stimulus payments, and nursing homes or other long-term care facilities may not seize them.

Anyone who believes a long-term care resident who receives Medicaid has lost their stimulus check to a nursing home, assisted living residence, or residential care home, should contact the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424 or ago.cap@vermont.gov. You may also contact the Vermont Long-Term Care Ombudsman Project at (802) 863-5620 (Voice & TTY). Vermonters may also report to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

Here is more information on the rules relating to long-term care residents’ receipt of stimulus checks.

Help Stop Elder Abuse: Report It

Contributing Writer:  Crystal Baldwin

I can’t tell you how sad the topic of elder abuse and neglect makes me.  Since I was a young girl, I loved the elders in my life and maintained such deep respect for them and their life experience.  Unfortunately, “each year, an estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, or exploited” (ACL.gov).  

Abuse is not just physical, it can be emotional and psychological, or include financial exploitation.  Neglect is of grave concern, too, because in cases of neglect elders are not getting the care they need and deserve.  Abusers can knowingly or unknowingly engage in such acts and may even demonstrate that they have good intentions.  Abuse and neglect, no matter how it is posed, is unacceptable.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation recommendations continue for those most susceptible to experience severe illness caused by the disease, including those 65 years of age and older and those with severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes (CDC).  Before the pandemic, social isolation was already a concern and an issue reported to our office’s Elder Protection Initiative.  Now, while those most susceptible to illness remain in isolation, abuse and neglect can continue to occur for a longer period before it is seen by a bystander and reported.  Each of us must commit to protecting older adults.  

Know the signs of elder abuse.  The National Center on Elder Abuse has outlined the signs as follows:

Emotional and Behavioral:  unusual changes in behavior, or sleep, fear or anxiety, isolated or not responsive, sadness

Physical:  broken bones, bruises, and welts, cuts, sores, or burns, missing daily living aids, such as walker and hearing aids, torn or bloody underclothing, STDs without clear explanation, poor living conditions

Financial:  unusual changes in bank account or money arrangement, unusual or quick changes in will or other financial documents, fake signatures on financial documents, unpaid bills

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  On this day, let’s commit to reporting elder abuse and neglect and financial exploitation when we see it.  As good neighbors and compassionate people, we must report whenever we see signs of abuse and neglect.  We may be the only one who sees it and the only one who can report it.  


As a reporter, you are not alone, there are many agencies and organizations that are essential to eliminating elder abuse.  To simplify the reporting process, the following is a list of resources.

REPORT CONTACT
Life-threatening
situation
911
Suspected elder
abuse, neglect or
exploitation, including
financial exploitation
Local Police and
Adult Protective Services of the
Dept. of Aging and Independent
Living (800-564-1612), if about a
vulnerable adult
Abuse of a person
living in a nursing
home, assisted living
facility, or board and
care home
Long Term Care Ombudsman of VT
Legal Aid (800-889-2047)
Concerns regarding
licensed health care
facilities
Survey and Certification of the
Dept.of Aging and
Independent Living
(888-700-5330)
Domestic Violence VT Network
Domestic Violence Hotline
(800-228-7395)
Sexual Violence VT Network Sexual Violence Hotline
(800-489-7273)
Misuse of Social
Security
Benefits
Social Security Administration
Office of the Inspector General
(800-772-1213)
Medicaid Fraud and
Abuse
VT Attorney General’s
Medicaid Fraud Unit (802-828-5511)
Unauthorized Real
Estate Transfers
Vermont Legal Aid (802-775-0021)
Broker and Investment Advisor Fraud Dept. of Financial Regulation:
Securities Division (802-828-3420)
Bank Fraud Dept. of Financial Regulation:
Banking Division (888-568-4547)
Insurance Agent,
Adjuster, or
Carrier Fraud
Dept. of Financial Regulation:  
Insurance Division (800-964-1784)
Scams and
Identity Theft and
Consumer Fraud
VT Attorney General’s
Consumer Assistance Program
(800-649-2424)

If you are still not sure who to contact, call United Ways of Vermont 2-1-1 information and referral hotline (dial 211 or 802-652-4636).  They are a great resource, connecting Vermonters to organizations and agencies.  

More Resources:  
WEAAD: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
National Center on Elder Abuse
Videos: Strengthening the Structure of Justice to Prevent Elder Abuse by the NCEA
Elder Abuse-Learn the signs and break the silence