BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — When people think of elderly abuse, they may think of someone physically harming a senior citizen, but social workers who organize the Raleigh County Commission on Aging’s annual Elder Abuse Conference said on Friday, September 29, 2023, that seniors are often victims of financial abuse by those closest to them.

“You may have a child that goes in and thanks, well, I’m just borrowing money from Mom or Dad,” said RCCA Social Services Director Krystal Foley. “And they’re actually not, ever, paying it back. Mom and Dad don’t even know they’re taking it, because they trust their child, and, you know, they discover, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m broke.’”

Justice John Hutchison of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is a regular speaker at the annual conference. He says judges often see crimes involving elder abuse.

“Sometimes, it will be a criminal case that nobody’s noticed the elder abuse until a tragedy occurs,” said Justice Hutchison. “But we see the criminal case. But it’s based upon elder abuse, and we need to point that out to these folks that are the front line.”

Expert speakers like Hutchison said during the conference some senior citizens lose their life savings after someone close to them squanders their finances.

RCCA social worker Kim Ratliff said family members and others should intervene if they suspect abuse of an elderly person, including scams which target seniors.

“They should contact the Attorney General’s Office, in those types of matters,” advised Ratliff. “If there’s ever any thought of abuse or neglect going on, then you need to contact APS {Adult Protective Services} or local authorities.”