Opioid Crisis at Home: Rise in Elder Abuse Tied to Opioid Epidemic

This is the second post in a two-part series on the opioid crisis at home. Addiction, the subject of our first post, is not the only opioid-related impact on older adults. The following post will examine the rise in elder abuse tied to the opioid epidemic.

I assisted a client with the purchase of commercial real estate property and had the opportunity to talk to the sellers at the property closing. I was surprised to learn that the building had been a family restaurant, in business for nearly eighty years. I asked the sellers why they were selling their business. They told me that they could no longer keep running it. They continued to share that they have two adult children battling opioid addiction.

The dad confided further that their children used to break into their restaurant and steal steaks and seafood to fund their drug habit. They were tired of hiding their valuables around their children and were having a difficult time anticipating what they would raid next. When the kids started breaking into the business, they knew they could not keep it going. In addition, they have grandchildren that they are raising as the primary caregivers because their children and their partners were not able to care for the young ones.

 Financial exploitation by family members abusing drugs

Experts suspect the rise in elder abuse is tied to the opioid epidemic. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse found that substance abuse is a factor in many types of elder abuse, including physical mistreatment, emotional abuse, and financial exploitation by family members abusing drugs such as opioids.

The above story, on closer examination, is not so unusual. The couple is being subjected to financial exploitation by their adult children. Because the parents refused to give their adult children money, the kids resorted to stealing the steak and seafood from their parent’s business to fund their drug habit. The kids’ behavior put their parents out of business. They could not afford it and had to sell their building only because their business was losing so much money.

The couple also find themselves raising their grandchildren because of their adult children’s drug addiction. These “grand-families” often face unique financial, social, physical and legal problems, often accompanied by depression and isolation. Parental substance misuse is the most common reason that an estimated 2.5 million children are raised by grandparents and other relatives, according to Generations United. The parents face wrenching decisions to report their children to the authorities or try to solve the problem on their own.

No single treatment is right for everyone

For more information about treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, ask your medical provider. Behavioral counseling, medication, and relapse prevention methods may help your loved one get on the road to recovery. More information is available at the National Institutes of Health website. For any caregiver, an addicted older person may be neglecting self-care and present many other health problems. You do not have to do it alone. Get help from Alcoholics Anonymous, drug treatment centers, and community organizations. 

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