Alzheimer's: Part 3 of 4

Tackling crimes against seniors

Amy Woodward
Arvada Senior Liaison Officer, Tom VanderVeen, sits with a group of seniors at the Apex Community Recreation Center in Arvada to update them about the latest scams targeting the senior population.
Posted

George, 74, a retired psychiatrist, admits he has always been gullible, even before his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. But recent events have caused him to seek the advice of his family before being tricked into a situation that could leave his pocket empty or worse.

Although advertisements on the Internet, which offer price specials on medicinal products, allow George to think his purchase through, face-to-face interactions in which he is being targeted seem to be a little more confusing.

As he walked home from the store in the afternoon, a car pulled up next to him driven by a woman he didn’t recognize who said, “Hi, I think I know you.” George had no idea who she was but her story seemed plausible: Yes, he and his wife used to live around here. Yes, they both dined at area restaurants, so why wouldn’t it be possible this woman used to be their waitress, as she claimed?

She offered him a ride home in the car, where a young man who sat in the vehicle listened carefully as George conversed with the woman. George accepted and entered the car. When they reached his home, he gave her his number so they could meet for coffee, as she suggested. She called him frequently trying unsuccessfully to schedule a meeting. When that didn’t work, she asked to come over to his house. When George informed her he was living with his wife, the woman stopped calling.

“These scam artists are much better than … doctors at identifying people that have cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Robert Parker chief of community geriatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “They know they’re not firing on all eight cylinders, they know they have the money, they’ve retired ... they’re just extremely vulnerable.”

Arvada Senior Liaison Officer Tom VanderVeen is the only police officer in Jefferson county whose primary duty is outreach services for the senior community. Every Tuesday at the Apex Community Recreation Center in Arvada, he shares information with seniors about the latest scams, cons and local police activity reports. He highlights senior safety, home security and discusses programs and services.

Every month, he visits 15 different locations including assisted living homes, independent living homes and a memory care center.

“Nine years ago they (the city) did a tax initiative position just for this position,” VanderVeen said. “This is paid for by taxpayers, I’m in investigations but I’m not a detective and 99 percent of the stuff I do is all senior related, all senior activities.”

This includes educating himself on scams he can share with seniors as well as informing them on how they can protect themselves.

“Right now I can identify probably about 15 legitimate scams that are out there right now that are done over and over that are coming back around,” he said. “But every now and then there’s a new one.”

Cary Johnson, director of crime prevention programs at the Jeffco district attorney’s office and president of the Jefferson County Council on Aging, has been instrumental in working with the county’s law enforcement agencies. His job is to help keep seniors safe by hosting more than 138 crime prevention program presentations a year, and overseeing a fraud hotline for seniors that takes calls Monday through Friday. Johnson receives about 60 to 100 calls a month on the hotline.

He restarted TRIAD, an organization built on collaboration between senior community members, the district attorney’s office, law enforcement and senior service providers created by former DA Scott Storey. TRAID serves Jeffco and Gilpin counties and is designed to help prevent seniors from becoming victims of scams and providing them better law enforcement services.

Johnson is co-chair of TRIAD.

“I want to be out with seniors as much as I possibly can,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’re passionate about just seeing if we can keep them from becoming a victim in the first place.”

Johnson testified for a mandatory reporting bill on elder abuse which took effect July 1. For the first time in the state, persons witnessing or suspecting elder abuse are required to report it to their local law enforcement agency. This requirement extends to clergy and financial institutions.

Jefferson County’s Elder Abuse Unit under the DA’s office is the only one of its kind in Colorado. About 54 percent of cases handled in 2012 by the unit dealt with theft and burglary with perpetrators the victim’s family, neighbors and nurses. Assault accounted for 34 percent of cases followed by robbery and theft from a random person at 11 percent and sexual assault at 1 percent.

“(Seniors) are the forgotten victims although, we are making strides,” said Storey, senior chief of the Elder Abuse Unit.

Jefferson County and its cities are pulling together and progressing faster than most counties in the state to tackle elder abuse and present the tools needed to keep seniors safe from crime, Johnson said.

When Johnson was brought on in 2005 to expand the crime prevention program, he aimed to pull together Jeffco’s senior related services together.

“Let’s see if we can’t get everyone in Jefferson County who’s involved in senior stuff playing well together, working together, and I think that’s happening,” Johnson said. “I’m really proud of Jeffco and especially as I look at a lot of the other counties.”

George has talked before about the appeal of assisted living but the psychiatrist within him waits for “objected evidence” that his disability is worsening. The prospect of reconciling and moving in with his wife, who has remained a support system when George has bouts of sickness, is one avenue he will likely take before stepping into an assisted living facility.

“I have a decision to make with my wife,” he said. In regards to lessons learned about online scams and strangers approaching him on the street, he speaks with his daughter and wife about such incidents. “I’m really trying to be cautious,” he said.

Perhaps the greatest asset for George since his diagnosis has been the Alzheimer’s Association’s Colorado Chapter. George continues to attend support groups comprised of individuals and families who are facing the same challenges, going through life changing conditions that only those who are living with it can understand and express. He shares unwavering praise for an organization that has given him so much.

For George, his time with the association has been filled with positive experiences and encouragement against a disease that is determined to take it all away.

George, 74, a retired psychiatrist, admits he has always been gullible, even before his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. But recent events have caused him to seek the advice of his family before being tricked into a situation that could leave his pocket empty or worse.

Although advertisements on the Internet, which offer price specials on medicinal products, allow George to think his purchase through, face-to-face interactions in which he is being targeted seem to be a little more confusing.

As he walked home from the store in the afternoon, a car pulled up next to him driven by a woman he didn’t recognize who said, “Hi, I think I know you.” George had no idea who she was but her story seemed plausible: Yes, he and his wife used to live around here. Yes, they both dined at area restaurants, so why wouldn’t it be possible this woman used to be their waitress, as she claimed?

She offered him a ride home in the car, where a young man who sat in the vehicle listened carefully as George conversed with the woman. George accepted and entered the car. When they reached his home, he gave her his number so they could meet for coffee, as she suggested. She called him frequently trying unsuccessfully to schedule a meeting. When that didn’t work, she asked to come over to his house. When George informed her he was living with his wife, the woman stopped calling.

“These scam artists are much better than … doctors at identifying people that have cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Robert Parker chief of community geriatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “They know they’re not firing on all eight cylinders, they know they have the money, they’ve retired ... they’re just extremely vulnerable.”

Arvada Senior Liaison Officer Tom VanderVeen is the only police officer in Jefferson county whose primary duty is outreach services for the senior community. Every Tuesday at the Apex Community Recreation Center in Arvada, he shares information with seniors about the latest scams, cons and local police activity reports. He highlights senior safety, home security and discusses programs and services.

Every month, he visits 15 different locations including assisted living homes, independent living homes and a memory care center.

“Nine years ago they (the city) did a tax initiative position just for this position,” VanderVeen said. “This is paid for by taxpayers, I’m in investigations but I’m not a detective and 99 percent of the stuff I do is all senior related, all senior activities.”

This includes educating himself on scams he can share with seniors as well as informing them on how they can protect themselves.

“Right now I can identify probably about 15 legitimate scams that are out there right now that are done over and over that are coming back around,” he said. “But every now and then there’s a new one.”

Cary Johnson, director of crime prevention programs at the Jeffco district attorney’s office and president of the Jefferson County Council on Aging, has been instrumental in working with the county’s law enforcement agencies. His job is to help keep seniors safe by hosting more than 138 crime prevention program presentations a year, and overseeing a fraud hotline for seniors that takes calls Monday through Friday. Johnson receives about 60 to 100 calls a month on the hotline.

He restarted TRIAD, an organization built on collaboration between senior community members, the district attorney’s office, law enforcement and senior service providers created by former DA Scott Storey. TRAID serves Jeffco and Gilpin counties and is designed to help prevent seniors from becoming victims of scams and providing them better law enforcement services.

Johnson is co-chair of TRIAD.

“I want to be out with seniors as much as I possibly can,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’re passionate about just seeing if we can keep them from becoming a victim in the first place.”

Johnson testified for a mandatory reporting bill on elder abuse which took effect July 1. For the first time in the state, persons witnessing or suspecting elder abuse are required to report it to their local law enforcement agency. This requirement extends to clergy and financial institutions.

Jefferson County’s Elder Abuse Unit under the DA’s office is the only one of its kind in Colorado. About 54 percent of cases handled in 2012 by the unit dealt with theft and burglary with perpetrators the victim’s family, neighbors and nurses. Assault accounted for 34 percent of cases followed by robbery and theft from a random person at 11 percent and sexual assault at 1 percent.

“(Seniors) are the forgotten victims although, we are making strides,” said Storey, senior chief of the Elder Abuse Unit.

Jefferson County and its cities are pulling together and progressing faster than most counties in the state to tackle elder abuse and present the tools needed to keep seniors safe from crime, Johnson said.

When Johnson was brought on in 2005 to expand the crime prevention program, he aimed to pull together Jeffco’s senior related services together.

“Let’s see if we can’t get everyone in Jefferson County who’s involved in senior stuff playing well together, working together, and I think that’s happening,” Johnson said. “I’m really proud of Jeffco and especially as I look at a lot of the other counties.”

George has talked before about the appeal of assisted living but the psychiatrist within him waits for “objected evidence” that his disability is worsening. The prospect of reconciling and moving in with his wife, who has remained a support system when George has bouts of sickness, is one avenue he will likely take before stepping into an assisted living facility.

“I have a decision to make with my wife,” he said. In regards to lessons learned about online scams and strangers approaching him on the street, he speaks with his daughter and wife about such incidents. “I’m really trying to be cautious,” he said.

Perhaps the greatest asset for George since his diagnosis has been the Alzheimer’s Association’s Colorado Chapter. George continues to attend support groups comprised of individuals and families who are facing the same challenges, going through life changing conditions that only those who are living with it can understand and express. He shares unwavering praise for an organization that has given him so much.

For George, his time with the association has been filled with positive experiences and encouragement against a disease that is determined to take it all away.