Elder abuse is at epidemic levels throughout the United States, with millions of the nation’s seniors exposed to various types of mistreatment each year. Older Americans are often among the most vulnerable groups when it comes to physical, mental, and emotion abuse, and the clear majority of cases are never documented. It’s a silent epidemic that has been difficult to fully address – though not for lack of trying. Georgia recently received indications that its efforts to thwart elder abuse may be yielding at least some positive results, as a new analysis from WalletHub reveals that the state ranks 13th in the nation on the list of those that do the best job protecting against elder abuse.
Obviously, thirteenth is still a long way from being the best, but it is emblematic of the tremendous progress that Georgia has made in its efforts to address this scourge. Over the last several years, organizations like the Southwest Georgia Council on Aging (SOWEGA COA) have aggressively pushed for new policies and programs to help identify potential cases of abuse and take steps to increase prevention. The results have clearly been positive, though it is equally clear that there is still a long way to go before seniors can be said to be truly safe.
Areas of Progress
As SEWEGA Executive Director Kay Hind has observed, elder protection group helped push to make elder abuse a specific crime. They also worked to help get the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) more interested in the issue of elder abuse. That’s resulted in expanded training for the Bureau’s agents and increased funding for efforts to protect seniors and deal with financial crimes and other instances of abuse. All that hard work has paid off in other ways too. For example, there’s now a policy that makes it easier for the state to actively track elder abuse in long-term care facilities, and identify the abusers. As Hind described the current policy,
“This past year it just approved that people who work in nursing homes and are accused of abuse, they have a registry so that they can’t just leave there and go to another home and get hired.”
There’s also been an increased effort to ensure that assisted living facilities and nursing homes are properly licensed, and an emphasis on providing the Ombudsman Program with the power it needs to properly monitor the state’s institutions. Ombudsmen are often among the first to identify institutional abuse, and play an instrumental role in ensuring that seniors receive the care and attention they need.
The Rest of the Story…
As great as this news is, everyone recognizes that we have much more to do if seniors in the state are to receive the protection they deserve. Ombudsmen can only do so much, especially when you consider that most experts believe that elder abuse most commonly involves those closest to the abused senior. Often, abuse by one family member can go on for months or years before other family members take notice of the problem.
The need to better protect our elderly population has never been greater. The Baby Boom generation saw its first members reach the age of 65 five years ago. Over the next three decades, Census experts tells us that the country’s senior population will expand from 43 million to nearly 84 million. As that happens, elder law concerns like abuse will become even more important for the nation to address.
You Can Help Prevent Elder Abuse
The good news is that there is a role for each of us to play in the effort to stop elder abuse. In addition to offering our support to groups like the SOWEGA Council on Aging, we can all take a more active hand in assisting the elders that we personally know. Nearly all of us have loved ones who are in their senior years, and we can help to protect them in a variety of different ways:
- If they live on their own, make sure that they’re not socially isolated. Seniors who lack social support and interaction are more vulnerable to physical, mental, and emotional abuse. They’re also easier prey for financial predators.
- If you have senior loved ones in nursing homes or other care facilities, visit them as often as you can. Pay attention to their physical and mental state, and be alert to signs that something might be amiss. Unreasonable fears, unexplained injuries, and a lack of community interaction can all be early warning signs that abuse may be a concern.
- Communicate with your senior loved ones and help them in any way that you can. Remember, seniors often lose some of their independence as they age, and even simple tasks like balancing a checkbook may become a major undertaking. Your assistance can help to ensure that you’re more familiar with any potential problems they may be experiencing.
It’s also important to remember that the most common types of elder abuse are all criminal offenses in the state of Georgia. It is vital that suspected abuse be reported to the authorities as soon as possible, as that is the only way to effectively stop the abuse and prevent it from happening to others in the elderly community. Currently, some experts believe that only about 4% of abuse cases get reported to the right authorities. That dismal statistic shows that there are far too many seniors who simply suffer in silence. You can help to change that dynamic.
When an Attorney Can Help
We also understand that there are times when it might seem like these issues are too large for you to handle on your own. At Fouts Law Group, LLC, we’re always here to help seniors and their families address major concerns like elder abuse. We can work with seniors to ensure that their assets and wellbeing are secured against any type of mistreatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, or needs to address any other elder law concerns, be sure to contact us online or give us a call at (404) 596-7520 today.
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