Elder abuse issues have arisen in Coweta recently, but one local business owner is learning more about how to prevent the problem.
Elder abuse, also called elder mistreatment, refers to the act, or failure to act, by caregivers or another person in a relationship with older adults. Carol Wright Hovey, owner/partner of Anchored At Home (AAH), a private home care provider, recently attended the Elder Abuse Conference in Slidell, La.
Elder Abuse is a topic important to the home care provider. AAH is located in Newnan and serves several Georgia counties.
“There appears to be such a narrow understanding in the complexities of this issue. This conference offered not only a range of topics covering the various elder groups and topics, but also thoughts on how communities can interrupt the practice,” Hovey said.
“I was like a sponge at this conference. The presenters were credentialed, dynamic, knowledgeable and approachable. I was unaware of the term ‘elder trafficking’ and why understanding the difference in elder abuse and domestic abuse is so important,” she said. “Now, I clearly understand.”
Hovey said “elder trafficking” is targeting specific elders for their checks and benefits.
At the conference, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was represented by Heather Strickland, assistant special agent in charge. Strickland’s topic included schemes to "traffic" elders.
“These are elders who are recruited from shelters, jails, and even churches who have no families or family ties,” Hovey said. “The elder is promised basic life comforts by an individual or individuals if they sign over their benefits to them – i.e. monthly check, food stamps, etc. With the hope of a home, care, camaraderie, they comply to later find themselves living in deplorable conditions, no funds and being abused in most of the categories.
Hovey said she learned the three most important steps to prevent or combat elder abuse are awareness, a constructive narrative and a multidisciplinary approach to prevent elder abuse and to assist any elder affected as necessary.
In a previous Newnan Times-Herald interview, owner and CEO of Home Helpers of Georgia and Alabama, Beth Dow, who has worked with the elderly for more than 10 years, said, “(You) just have to let someone know. (You) don't have to prove it, just report it.”
There are warning signs and ways to prevent elder abuse. According to the Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services, changes in behavior or emotional state can serve as warning signs.
The refusal of the caregiver to allow visits with the elder is a possible warning sign along with comments about being mistreated by the elder. “The complexity of elder abuse can be reduced dramatically by changing the contributing factors,” Hovey said.
Joy Shirley, director of the Three Rivers Agency on Aging, says she notices the developing problem and feels that elder abuse is growing.
The state of Georgia has taken steps as recently as March to help prevent elder abuse, adding $766,000 for additional Adult Protective Service workers who investigate abuse of the elderly and disabled.
Anyone who suspects elder abuse should call the metro Atlanta hotline at 1-888-257-9519.