World Elder Abuse Awareness Day sheds light on prevalent issue

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day sheds light on prevalent issue
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Elder abuse is a widespread problem that experts believe is significantly under-reported. Abuse of the elderly takes many different forms including physical, emotional, and healthcare fraud abuse.

Friday people around the world joined together to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in hopes of raising more awareness about the issue.

91-year-old Henryette Bailey has been an elder rights advocate since witnessing a dear family friend financially exploited by the man appointed as her power of attorney.

"She said, 'I love that man like he was my child and I don't understand how he could do me like that,'" said Bailey.

Bailey said before she saw all the signs the damage was already done.

"He had misused $2.8 million and left her broke," said Bailey.

After reporting it to DHR, Bailey gained power of attorney, but she didn't stop there. She helped be a voice for the Elder Abuse Prevention Act which passed in 2013.

"To me that was stealing. It wasn't his money that was her money," said Bailey.

Since the inception of that law here in our state approximately 400 cases of elder abuse have been prosecuted.

"It is an issue that has to been in the forefront in the future," said Emily Marsal.

Every year an estimated 1 in 10 older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Emily Marsal, General Counsel with the Alabama Department of Senior Services, said many times it is under reported.

"The neglect or exploitation, sometimes it is abuse by a family member, and they are scared to report," said Marsal.

This is why it is important to pay attention to any signs.

"Sometimes you can see the signs. You can see the bruises and you can see bed sores. With emotional abuse, sometimes that is a little harder to read the signs," said Marsal.

ADSS chairs the Interagency Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect which has representation from numerous agencies in the state to include Alabama Securities Commission, Alabama Department of Human Resources, the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Medicaid Agency and others. The Council has been the originator of the strong elder abuse laws. Most recently the Elder Abuse Protection Order and Enforcement Act was championed by Sen. Roger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) and Rep. Rod Scott (D-Fairfield) and passed by the legislature in 2017 and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.

To learn more about elder abuse prevention, call 1-800-AGE-LINE or view the toolkit online.

To report an incident of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, call the Department of Human Resources - Adult Protective Services Abuse Hotline at 800-458-7214.

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