MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Research shows seniors who experience abuse have a 300% higher risk of death and are more likely to have psychological issues. Sadly, elderly abuse is the fastest growing crime in Montgomery County.
Montgomery County law enforcement and the district attorney's office are hoping to change that.
District Attorney Darryl Bailey announced on Wednesday the creation of the Montgomery County Elder Justice Task Force.
Bailey says the task force will begin immediately to investigate and prosecute elder abuse cases.
The task force is made up of a special prosecutor along with an assigned investigator from the DA's office, along with other members representing the sheriff's office, police department, One Place Family Justice Center, Jones School of Law and other community agencies.
Officials say elder abuse happens in various forms, including neglect, physical, sexual, and financial.
According to authorities, the financial impact is enormous. Officials say the direct medical cost of violent injuries to seniors is in excess of $5.3 billion per year.
The loss to seniors who have experienced financial fraud is almost $3 billion every year.
Bailey tells us the Protecting Elders Act, which went into effect last year, created additional criminal penalties and gives the task force additional tools to prosecute these cases.
"It's going to take a lot more work and a lot more time, but I truly believe that this is going to pay off," Bailey said. "I know we are going to make a difference."
Officials say often, it's a family member who is doing the abuse. In fact, 90% of abusers are family members, making these cases even more troubling for the victims.
"They are very reluctant to come forward. They feel like they are getting a loved one into trouble," said Jan Casteel, assistant director of the Montgomery County Department of Human Resources. "So they are willing very often to let terrible, terrible things continue to happen, depleting financial sources or in many instances actually being harmed physically and that's something hopefully this task force will bring to light."
With this task force, officials hope to raise awareness, establish a direct line of communication for anyone being abused or suspects abuse, and allows the agencies to come together to investigate the abuse and exploitation of the elderly.
If you or someone else you know needs help, call the One Place Family Justice Center at 334-262-7378.