Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse, neglect and self-neglect, according to the Georgia Division of Aging Services. Elder abuse is also one of the most unreported and undetected problems in the country.
Recently, there were reports of a “horrific” elder abuse case in Albany that led to the arrests of three people, said WABE, in “Elder Abuse: Warning Signs, How Georgia Took Action.” The victims, who were living in unlicensed personal care homes, were deprived of health care, shelter and necessary sustenance, as well as being exploited financially. They were subsequently moved to licensed facilities.
Elder abuse charges have risen in Georgia since 2010, according to a June article by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In fiscal year 2016, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation opened 47 cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation of at-risk adults. In 2017, the GBI opened 69 cases, a 46.8% change within one year.
The website for Georgia’s Division of Aging Services sets out warning signs for the different types of abuse. Abuse can include burns, bruises, and injuries that don’t seem related to a person’s medical condition. Emotional abuse includes verbal insults, slander, harassment, name-calling, intimidation, belittlement and not permitting a senior to be a part of a decision that he is able to make and in which he wants to have an input. Sexual abuse includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, inappropriate touching and forcing someone to view sexually explicit materials.
With financial abuse and exploitation, a senior may be missing money or valuables, and there may be forged checks, unusual credit card charges and legal documents signed by an older adult who may not have understood the circumstances.
Finally, there’s neglect and self-neglect which takes the form of bed sores, rashes, malnourishment, dehydration and unusual weight loss. These are signs a caregiver may be neglecting an older adult. Poor living conditions may also be a red flag. Self-neglect occurs when an older adult can’t take care of himself or herself. The warning signs include poor personal hygiene, soiled and ragged clothes, refusing to take medication and not fulfilling basic needs.
The state holds physicians and medical personnel accountable as mandated reporters who are responsible for recognizing potential elder abuse cases. They must report their concerns to authorities, as must the employees of financial institutions. Banks are where many senior citizens are being exploited financially. For example, a caregiver or a family member could coerce a senior to cash a check that he or she didn’t want to write.
According to Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging, Georgia’s Adult Protective Services received more than 43,000 contacts in fiscal year 2017. Of those, more than 19,000 were investigated and more than 3,000 became long-term investigations. Floyd said one reason reporting has risen is that more tools are available to law enforcement, and more cases have emerged from the regular training on elder abuse crimes available to law enforcement. Historically, law enforcement used to believe that some elder abuse cases were civil rather than criminal matters, but that’s changed recently. Floyd said the Georgia Legislature has also funded a position for a statewide elder abuse prosecutor to assist all 159 counties in Georgia.
Reference: WABE (January 31, 2018) “Elder Abuse: Warning Signs, How Georgia Took Action”