By: Asia Ashley Staff Writer
August 16, 2013
Elderly abuse takes place everyday in Georgia and some may see the signs of the abuse without even knowing it.
At Active Life on Thursday, the LaGrange Police Department, Troup County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigations and Georgia Public Broadcasting premiered a police training video in LaGrange, which featured Active Life members and local law enforcement, that will be used to help officers across the state identify signs of elder abuse.
“It is a compelling video,” said GBI Director Vernon Keenan. “It will be extremely valuable as we train law enforcement officers throughout Georgia on how to recognize elder abuse and how to intervene when we see it happening. Gov. Deal made it clear to all agencies that it’s crucial that preventing, investigating and prosecuting elder abuse and abuse of disabled adults is a priority to the administration.”
LaGrange Chief of Public Safety Lou Dekmar chaired efforts by the Georgia Association of Chiefs to address elderly abuse by developing policies and recommendations for law enforcement agencies, which resulted in the training video.
“Because of the significant increase of the aging population, it became a concern to the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police,” said Dekmar. “We (LPD) are aware of at least three deaths that are directly related to neglect or abuse of those at risk adults, so that furthered my interest to personally be involved with this effort.”
The training video shows that at risk adults, adults 65 years or older or those 18 or older with disabilities, because they are dependent which makes them more vulnerable, are at greater risk of physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, trafficking and financial exploitation. In fact, every one in nine adults over age 60 experiences some form of abuse.
Common signs of abuse can include lack of cleanliness, bed sores, poor nutrition, and withholding or over-medicating the victim. These warning signs, however, are not always obvious and one should never rely on what the caregivers may say as they may try to clean up before a visitor or even find an excuse to prevent a person from seeing the victim.
Abandonment is a common form of abuse as well and, in Georgia, at risk adults are abandoned at emergency rooms more often than we think or dropped off at public locations or left alone while the caregiver is on vacation.
Intimidation is a common form of abuse that commonly leads to financial exploitation.
Every year in Georgia, thousands of at risk adults loose their monthly benefits or savings to caregivers who may intimidate or influence them to sign blank checks or even threaten to move them in different housing. Often, adults will recruit someone with a disability and promise them shelter as a scheme to use the victim’s funds.
Officers are encouraged to speak to victims alone because the victim may try to conceal the crime due to fear or consequences or loyalty to the caregiver. When speaking with the victim in the presence of a caregiver, common indicators of abuse is rehearsed statements from the victim or frequently looking at the caregiver when answering questions.
When speaking with a victim and a caregiver, there may not always be enough evidence to support abuse. If any abuse is suspected, however, Adult Protective Services can be called or if the victim resides in a licensed facility Healthcare Facility Regulation should be called.
In various scenarios from the video, the cast portrays scenarios of abuse that could happen to an elder, which has opened the eyes to many of the participants.
“I never thought about it and didn’t realize it was as much of it is going on,” said Shirley Lear, Active Life member who was seen in a brief clip from the video. “I’m going to be more aware of my surroundings now because I surely wouldn’t want to be treated like any of those people.”
With the new training video, law enforcement officers will be able to better protect elderly and disabled abuse victims and prevent it in the future.
The video was paid for by funds from drug seizures and will be a part of daily protocol for officers.