A caregiver in a Phoenix home near 50th Street and Thomas Road is accused of using a telephone cord to bind an elderly and injured woman, according to court documents.
Police records show that on Aug. 10, the 89-year-old victim was tied to a chair with a phone cord and slapped on her head and face by her caregiver, 44-year-old Elena Martin, for almost four hours while the victim asked to be released.
Martin, of Surprise, also reportedly took all of the victim’s phones and magnifying glasses away from her.
A few hours after the alleged abuse, a friend and previous caregiver of the victim arrived at the home and was told by the victim about what Martin did. The friend told police that she noticed bruising on the victim’s head that was not there when she visited early that day.
Court documents said that the victim was in need of a caregiver because she lived alone, had poor eyesight and had recently fallen and broken her shoulder, rendering her unable to care for herself.
Martin had been taking care of the victim for about a week and had been promised food, shelter and more than $1,800 to care for her. She reportedly called the victims' friend several times urging her not to call police because she feared that she would lose her caregiver diploma, records said.
Martin requested an attorney upon her arrest and made no statements to police. She has been charged with vulnerable adult abuse and unlawful imprisonment.
Elder abuse victim advocates in the community are disheartened to hear about this case, although they tell ABC15 that stories like this one are pretty common.
Melissa Elliott, the Vice President for Programs and Services with the Area Agency on Aging, said elder abuse is an often unreported crime.
"The cases that are reported are only a fraction of what's happening,” Elliott said.
Mark Fairall, an elder justice advocate with the group "The Real Faces of Elder Abuse," said that even though it was common, cases like this anger him.
"They're monsters. They're driven by money. I think of them as having no soul, demonic," Fairall said.
For many senior citizens who do not have family checking on them, their relationship with caregivers is one of pure survival. Victims usually feel shame in reporting the incidents, many feel guilt and others are afraid that agencies will remove them from their homes and force them to live in a different environment.
"This victim will now have to deal with some trauma, as well as the medical issues she was already facing,” Fairall said. He also said that studies have shown victims of elder abuse have a shorter life span than others and that his heart broke for this victim.
He encouraged those who use caregivers to install "nanny cameras" in their homes, as police need proof of the abuse.
"So often these perpetrators get away with nothing but a slap on the wrist," Fairall said.
He encouraged people to hire from legitimate agencies and to take the time to look into the background of the caregiver they are hiring.
Advocates are asking the community to keep a close eye on elderly neighbors, especially those who are by themselves. If anyone notices new people in their lives or a big change in their normal routine, check in on them, and ask questions.
Elliott said his organization needs the community's help to catch those abusing the most vulnerable people in our community.
The Area Agency on Aging has a 24-hour helpline set up. If you need help or have questions or concerns you can call 602-264-HELP (4357) 24-hours a day.
You can also click here for information on how to find a trusted caregiver or nursing home.