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The Link Between Opioid Addiction and Elderly Abuse

A recent report on NPR reveals that opioid addiction has serious repercussions on the elderly in Rhode Island.

Research found that an increase in elder abuse in Massachusetts could be attributed to the opioid addiction crisis in that state. Charles Fogerty, the Director of the RI Division of Elderly Affairs, says his department has observed similar effects on the elderly in our state. He shared one particular story, relayed to him by a worker from the DEA’s Adult Protective Services unit:

“I’ll never forget … a case where there was a grandson who was a substance abuser who was not physically abusing the grandmother, but was clearly mentally abusing her, you know, taking money from her and so forth, and the woman did not want to press charges.

Number one, it’s her grandson, and she loves him obviously, and no matter what they do, you never stop loving them. But secondly, and this was the one that really got to me, was she said, ‘I don’t want to be alone … I’d rather be abused than be alone’.

So even though she knew that it wasn’t right,  that her grandson had problems and she was being victimized, it was not only for love of him, but she just didn’t want to be alone.  She would rather have somebody in that house, even if that person wasn’t nice to her, than not, and didn’t want to file a charge.”

Fogerty thinks that in Rhode Island there’s an under-reporting of elder abuse, and described his department’s activities to try to catch and prevent it.

90% of people who abuse seniors (physically, sexually or financially) are family members. And because seniors often rely so heavily on family members for caregiving and companionship, they are often very reluctant to report abuse. They don’t want to jeopardize relationships, embarrass loved their one, or to lose the support they depend on.

Forgerty’s message to Rhode Island seniors is this:

“You deserve to be respected, you deserve to have a good quality of life and be independent, and there’s support services out there that we want to help you with. So don’t be afraid, don’t live a life of misery when you don’t have to. We want people to know there are places they can turn to.”

If you suspect that a loved one is being abused, contact the DEA’s Protective Services Unit at 462-0555; if it’s an urgent life-or-death situation, contact 911.

See: Opioid Crisis May Fuel Rise in Elderly Abuse (RI NPR)

Heffner & Associates, Elder Care Law & Estate Planning

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Warwick, Rhode Island