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Shelby County District Attorney issues new PSAs to bring awareness to elder abuse

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office is releasing new PSAs to bring awareness to the issue to elder abuse in t...
11-7 – elder abuse

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office is releasing new PSAsto bring awareness to the issue to elder abuse in the Mid-South.

Below is a news release from the D.A.:

Earlier this year, a caregiver for an 87-year-old South Memphiswoman with dementia pled guilty to stealing $12,600 from her and forging papersto change the title on her car. The woman was moved from her home to aChristian care facility after she was found highly intoxicated and covered infilth.

In another case, a man pled guilty in April to beating and rapinga 73-year-old woman in her assisted-living apartment in the Medical Centerarea. The man knocked on her door, forced his way inside and struck her in thehead repeatedly. He took a short nap before leaving.

And last year, a longtime caregiver for an elderly neighboradmitted beating, kicking and even using a bullwhip on the 71-year-old man ifhe did not take his medicine – or for no reason at all. The victim’s home inthe University of Memphis area was in deplorable condition and the victim, whosuffered numerous broken bones and bruises, died shortly after beinghospitalized. The caregiver pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter, aggravatedassault and vulnerable-adult neglect, abuse and exploitation.

These are just a few of the criminal cases we see far too often inthe courts of Shelby County each year. Perhaps even more alarming is thatstatistics on elder abuse suggest that only one out of 14 cases are everreported. (The abuse involving the bullwhip continued for 11 years before thebattered victim turned up in an emergency room.)

Prosecutors in our Special Victims Unit handle nearly 75 caseseach year in which an elderly person is the victim of physical or financialcrimes. In some cases we take a deposition in case an elderly victim becomesunable to testify. The under-reported problem of elder abuse is growing hereand across the country as our aging population climbs.

The Tennessee District Attorney Generals Conference has workeddiligently over the past four years to strengthen, revise and update criminalstatutes pertaining to elder abuse. This has resulted in greater protectionsfor the elderly and vulnerable, and better tools for prosecutors to holdoffenders responsible.

You soon will be seeing public service announcements in our campaign to bring greater awareness to the problem of elder abuse. See PSAs here: part 1 and part 2.

As many as one of every 10 Americans over the age of 60 haveexperienced some form of elder abuse. Yet victims often are afraid – or unable– to report the abuse, or will not assist in prosecutions because of theirdependence or trust in the abuser. With more than 150,000 local residents inthat over-60 population, these disturbing statistics have sparked someimportant conversations and actions in Memphis and Shelby County.

In 2011, the Plough Foundation experienced an increase in grantrequests on aging-related issues. Several years later, after performingin-depth research on the elder community, Plough began funding CREA (theCoordinated Response to Elder Abuse). Since 2015, more than 25 local governmentand nonprofit agencies have been collaborating to combat elder abuse and toimprove protection of these older adults.

One key non-profit member, Meritan, has served more than 100clients with homemaker services, nursing and physician in-home visits, andemergency housing when a client’s abuse requires immediate intervention andremoval.

The local Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team (VAPIT),which includes representatives from my office, CREA, local law enforcement, andAdult Protective Services, meets regularly to discuss referrals of abuse,neglect and exploitation. Again, the generous Plough Foundation leadership hasbeen there with grant support.

The Baptist Elder Abuse Curriculum at Baptist Memorial Healthcareis receiving national recognition for its program for training healthcarepersonnel to detect, treat and prevent elder abuse. Ferrell Moore, RN, CRN, andLaura Brown, LCSW, who developed the curriculum, now serve on the NationalCollaboratory to Address Elder Mistreatment with national experts in the fieldof elder abuse.

We also have the Senior Protection Coalition (SPC) which includeselected officials, law enforcement, healthcare executives and non-profitleaders who focus on elder abuse policy, and the Elder Death Review Team at theWest Tennessee Regional Forensic Center which examines cases with suspiciouscircumstances for possible elder abuse.

All of these remarkable teams represent a united effort to protectolder adults in Shelby County, a population that is steadily growing as babyboomers become seniors. That means the need for support services also willincrease, as will the possibilities of abuse.

Older adults have a wealth of skills and knowledge they havedeveloped over a lifetime of experiences. They add strength and wisdom to ourcommunity. Let’s all work in any way we can to prevent elder abuse before ithappens.

Tennessee state law requires reporting of suspected abuse of a vulnerable or elderly adult. Call 1-888-APS-TENN (277-8366) or visit https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov/ .