The Investigators

Aug 22, 2013 8:10 PM by Tom McNamara

Detecting and preventing elder abuse

We all worry about our parents and grandparents as they age. Who's taking care of them?

Each year, in the U.S., more than half-a-million older adults are believed to be abused or neglected. It's hitting home, in southern Arizona.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to see how big a problem it really is, and what you can do to help recognize it, and prevent it from happening in the first place.

It was just last month that two care home workers were charged with physically abusing a woman at a Tucson care facility. The pair allegedly struck the 93-year-old victim on numerous occasions.

Detective Maria Stengel, with the Pima County Sheriff's Department, investigates cases of elder abuse.

"We get quite a few cases. Not necessarily people that are involved in care homes or care facilities, but certainly, maybe caregivers that are in someone's private home and taking care of them," Stengel says.

While physical abuse can leave bruises and broken bones, other types of abuse cause financial scars.

Also last month, Tucson Police arrested a woman following an investigation into a long-term fraud. The elderly victim, a man, was scammed out of two to three million dollars.

When it comes to keeping those in their golden years secure in their finances while in a care home, detectives tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the family plays an important role.

"If they feel that their family member is maybe being isolated, that could be a red flag to them that something else is going on. Check their loved one's finances, check their legal documents, make sure that everything is in order, and is the way it should be according to their loved one's wishes," Stengel says.

The Arizona Department of Health Services licenses and oversees elder care homes.
Cara Christ with ADHS, says, those that are found in violation of state rules could face stiff penalties.

"There's a whole range of things that we can do, when we are concerned about a providers care that they're providing. So, we can do things like require them to take training, if it looks like there's a training issue. We can assess civil money penalties. We can revoke their license, we can suspend their license, or put them on a provisional," Christ says.

In the most recent case of financial fraud against elderly victims, the News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned charges in Justice Court have been dismissed, but authorities say charges will be re-filed in Superior Court. We'll let you know when that happens.

You can check out if a care home is licensed, and about any complaints against them at the Arizona Department of Health Services website linked here.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to look into, email us at


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