Thursday, July 19, 2007

Take Aggressive Steps Toward Protecting Elderly

The elderly in our communities who rely on home care often are at risk of abuse, financial exploitation and theft.

What's worse is in most cases the people committing these crimes against the elderly are not strangers, but in fact friends, neighbors and family members.

Mary Alice Rountree, Caddo Council on Aging director, said much of the abuse is coming from the children and grandchildren.

"They're the ones who are stealing from them," she said.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 1 million to 2 million Americans 65 and older have been injured, exploited or otherwise mistreated by someone they depended on for care or protection.
Most times elderly residents become so dependent on others they don't realize they are being victimized until it's too late and all of their finances are gone.

So it's up to others to keep a watchful eye out for the elderly.

And education is a start.

Partnering with agencies to educate the elderly on how to protect themselves from exploitation will

reap great rewards. Just recognizing the signs of abuse, financial exploitation and neglect is a step in the right direction.

And let's not forget to involve law enforcement agencies. They can't investigate cases of crimes against the elderly if they aren't aware of them.

In some cases the victim may feel protective of their caregivers and not want them punished. Or they might be ashamed of what has happened and choose to keep quiet.

Rountree recommends getting to know your elderly neighbors.

"We need to get back into checking on our seniors that live next door to us," she said.

"We tell people to report elderly abuse," Rountree said. "It's against the law not to report abuse."

Until the community becomes more aggressive in looking out for its elderly residents, more and more senior citizens will become victims of those charged with caring for them

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