Cases of elder abuse are on the rise

July 25, 2002 12:00 am

By AMY LINDBLOM

From the time she was born in a Kansas farmhouse in 1898, Ruby Loving had lived in her own home — until 1999 when a caretaker swindled Loving, then 101, out of her Jamestown house.

An 82-year-old Sonora man was also the victim of elder abuse after a 21-year-old Rocklin woman ingratiated herself upon him as she tried to sell him house siding over the phone.

In April, a 39-year-old Sonora man was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling about $13,000 from his father.

Beyond these three successfully prosecuted cases are many more reports of elder abuse now under investigation in Tuolumne County — where 24 percent of residents are age 60 or older.

Marilyn Day, program manager for Tuolumne County Adult Protective Services, said about 40 referrals of possible elder and dependent adult abuse are received each month in her office, which includes two social workers. While some elderly people are physically abused, she said, most are financially abused.

"As our population ages and because of mandated reporting, we're seeing more referrals each year," Day said.

In 1999, a California law was passed requiring any caregiver, either paid or volunteer, to report any kind of suspected abuse to elderly people.

Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Eric Hovatter, who prosecutes elder abuse suspects, said Loving was the victim of Judy Laquita Hazeltine.

Hazeltine, 70, had cared for Loving in Loving's Jamestown home for nine months when on May 12, 1999, she took Loving to a notary public and watched as Loving signed over the deed to her home of 38 years to Hazeltine.

In exchange for the deed, Loving had been assured she would be cared for in her own home for the rest of her life, Hovatter said. But within an hour of signing the deed, Hazeltine had Loving admitted to Sonora Community Hospital Long Term Care.