Every morning, I sit with my tea and peruse the newspaper. It’s a tiny bit of “me” time in this completely hectic life. However, what I found recently in the pages of The Washington Post nearly made me choke on my Earl Grey.
- In Germantown, MD, an elderly female (68) was sexually assaulted, in her own home. But that’s not the worst of it. This poor soul was accosted 7 months earlier by the same man, under the same circumstances. He is also suspected of attacking an 86-year-old woman in the nursing home across the street.
- A Delaware business man (66) is spotted acting erratically, wandering shoeless and disheveled in a downtown parking garage. He refuses offers for help. At 9:56 the following morning, his body is discovered in the local landfill.
- A new phone scam targets well-meaning grandparents. Crooks call pretending to be a panicked grandchild, in need of money – fast! They describe an accident, a legal matter, a medical emergency. They impart instructions on how to complete a money transfer. By the time grandma learns her precious angels are safe, the money is long gone.
Makes you sick, doesn’t it? As our population continues to age, instances of violence against the elderly are likely to continue. In 2009, there were 39.6 million Americans over the age of 65 (source: Department of Health and Human Services). And that number is expected to increase to 72.1 million by the year 2030.
My own parents fall squarely into this category. I fear for their safety on many levels – physical, emotional, financial – as I am sure you might be concerned for your loved ones.
Sadly, there are those among us who seek to harm or take advantage. Aging Americans make an easy target, for both their bank accounts and possible lack of street smarts. Whether a crook wants to scam money, cause physical harm, or prey on their health and wellness for personal gain, there are dangers everywhere.
So the question remains: How can we protect Mom and Pop?
It is imperative that we do several things.
Conquer the basics of baselining. Learn to size anyone up quickly. This means to familiarize yourself with their natural way of being. When a person deviates from their normal behavior, it could mean they are being evasive, untruthful or have suddenly become nervous about your encounter.
Brush up on your body language knowledge. Wouldn’t being able to spot the difference between a confident pose and an arrogant one help you spot a potentially untrustworthy financial advisor? What if you could spot a micro-expression indicating anger in a nursing-home caregiver? Couldn’t you sleep better at night knowing that you knew your mother’s natural behaviors inside and out … and could spot a deviation from her norm if necessary? Even the teensiest bit of knowledge can come in handy. You might spot a problem with one of your parents, or learn to read those they interact with better. You might save a few dollars … or a life.
Learn to spot deception. Becoming familiar with traits common among the untruthful (verbal and non-verbal) can go a long way toward protecting your parents. Spotting vocal variances (change in pitch or pace of speech), common catchphrases (“What makes you think I’d steal?”, “I swear to God … I’d never do anything to hurt her”), and physical cues (aggressive stances, manipulative hand gestures) of liars can help you weed out the good from the bad. It might also help you determine if Granny is keeping secrets of her own; maybe she fell down the stairs, lost her credit card, or had a small fender bender – and neglected to mention it.
There are literally millions of reasons why we should be brushing up on these important life skills. Surely you have at least one of them in your own family. Take some time to put your thinking cap on and hone your observation skills. Learn to spot a liar, take down a manipulator, and gain control of your lives.
And be sure to share these tactics with the people you aim to protect Please don’t let me ever read about them in the paper!