(Memphis) She's a caregiver accused of taking advantage of the elderly.
Eileen Cruz made an appearance in court Monday fighting charges of theft, abuse, neglect and exploitation
Cruz is accused of stealing checks from an elderly woman she cares for and writing them to herself. Police say she stole more $5,000 from the 87-year-old Midtown woman.
Cruz is not just her caregiver.
A family member of a 97-year-old Memphis man wrote News Channel 3 saying "I don't want Eileen manipulating my father into giving her any more money than she has already gotten from him.”
In fact, they say their elderly relative already gave Cruz thousands of dollars to pay for her attorney.
“Elders so often form attachments that they normally wouldn't if they weren't in such dire straits,” said Carole Foley with the Shelby County Crime Victims Center.
Foley, who works with elder crime victims, says elder abuse and manipulation involving caregivers is a big problem in Memphis and around the country, “It’s huge and it`s just now being looked at.”
Unfortunately, she says 80 percent of the abuse is committed by family and friends, who are often the caregivers.
Foley says the most important thing you can do is report any suspected abuse with Adult Protective Services.
It will send an investigator to their house to look for signs of abuse.
She says if an elderly person willingly gives the caregiver money sometimes there's not much you can do, “They have free will. They can do what they want to. It`s wonderful in America isn't it? But sometimes it puts elderly people in a bind.”
If you know an elderly person who is being victimized, or you suspect is being victimized, by a caregiver or anyone else, it is your duty under law to report it to authorities.