Here’s the situation: You haven’t seen your elderly neighbor lately, but people you’ve never seen before are coming and going from her home. You don’t want to be “snoopy,” but you are concerned. What should you do?

Your neighbor may be just fine (with family and friends visiting and keeping her busy). Or she may be having a health problem – and the visitors are caregivers. Or, in a darker scenario, she may have become the victim of elder abuse.

Elder abuse

Abuse can be either physical or financial – they often go hand-in-hand – or take the form of neglect. Abuse occurs all too often. In just one year there were more than 225,000 reported cases of elder and dependent adult abuse in California, according to the California Attorney General. That’s more than 600 per day. And the experts estimate that only one in five cases is reported. Elder abuse is a crime.

Possible approaches

If you see such a situation, we strongly encourage you do something – not only for your neighbor’s sake, but for your own. Think how you would feel should something be really wrong, and you did nothing to stop it.

Your options include telephoning your neighbor’s home and asking to speak with her, or stopping by and asking to visit with her. You may find that everything is fine. On the other hand, you could find someone who keeps you from speaking or visiting with her – a cause for great concern. Those who abuse elders frequently seek to isolate them. Dreadfully,abusers are often family members.

Another approach – if you can get the phone numbers – would be to call her family members or friends to check on how she’s doing. They may be able to alleviate your concern – or be able to check up on her themselves and report back to you.

You can also contact your local police agency and ask them to stop by your neighbor’s home and do what’s commonly called a “welfare check.”

Still another option, especially if you believe that there is an abusive situation, is to call the your county’s Adult Protective Services program and ask them to investigate. You should be able to find that program in the government section of your telephone book.

Finally, if you believe there’s an emergency, call 911.

Summing up

If you’re “snoopy,” but find that everything is just fine – what harm have you done? And if your neighbor needs help, we all thank you for being there.

harm have you done? And if your neighbor needs help, we all thank you for being there.