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 the Mid-South.
Below is a news release from the D.A.:
Earlier this year, a caregiver for an 87-year-old South Memphis woman with dementia pled guilty to stealing $12,600 from her and forging papers to change the title on her car. The woman was moved from her home to a Christian care facility after she was found highly intoxicated and covered in filth.
In another case, a man pled guilty in April to beating and raping a 73-year-old woman in her assisted-living apartment in the Medical Center area. The man knocked on her door, forced his way inside and struck her in the head repeatedly. He took a short nap before leaving.
And last year, a longtime caregiver for an elderly neighbor admitted beating, kicking and even using a bullwhip on the 71-year-old man if he did not take his medicine – or for no reason at all. The victim’s home in the University of Memphis area was in deplorable condition and the victim, who suffered numerous broken bones and bruises, died shortly after being hospitalized. The caregiver pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and vulnerable-adult neglect, abuse and exploitation.
These are just a few of the criminal cases we see far too often in the courts of Shelby County each year. Perhaps even more alarming is that statistics on elder abuse suggest that only one out of 14 cases are ever reported. (The abuse involving the bullwhip continued for 11 years before the battered victim turned up in an emergency room.)
Prosecutors in our Special Victims Unit handle nearly 75 cases each year in which an elderly person is the victim of physical or financial crimes. In some cases we take a deposition in case an elderly victim becomes unable to testify. The under-reported problem of elder abuse is growing here and across the country as our aging population climbs.
The Tennessee District Attorney Generals Conference has worked diligently over the past four years to strengthen, revise and update criminal statutes pertaining to elder abuse. This has resulted in greater protections for the elderly and vulnerable, and better tools for prosecutors to hold offenders responsible.
As many as one of every 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. Yet victims often are afraid – or unable – to report the abuse, or will not assist in prosecutions because of their dependence or trust in the abuser. With more than 150,000 local residents in that over-60 population, these disturbing statistics have sparked some important conversations and actions in Memphis and Shelby County.
In 2011, the Plough Foundation experienced an increase in grant requests on aging-related issues. Several years later, after performing in-depth research on the elder community, Plough began funding CREA (the Coordinated Response to Elder Abuse). Since 2015, more than 25 local government and nonprofit agencies have been collaborating to combat elder abuse and to improve protection of these older adults.
One key non-profit member, Meritan, has served more than 100 clients with homemaker services, nursing and physician in-home visits, and emergency housing when a client’s abuse requires immediate intervention and removal.
The local Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Team (VAPIT), which includes representatives from my office, CREA, local law enforcement, and Adult Protective Services, meets regularly to discuss referrals of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Again, the generous Plough Foundation leadership has been there with grant support.
The Baptist Elder Abuse Curriculum at Baptist Memorial Healthcare is receiving national recognition for its program for training healthcare personnel to detect, treat and prevent elder abuse. Ferrell Moore, RN, CRN, and Laura Brown, LCSW, who developed the curriculum, now serve on the National Collaboratory to Address Elder Mistreatment with national experts in the field of elder abuse.
We also have the Senior Protection Coalition (SPC) which includes elected officials, law enforcement, healthcare executives and non-profit leaders who focus on elder abuse policy, and the Elder Death Review Team at the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center which examines cases with suspicious circumstances for possible elder abuse.
All of these remarkable teams represent a united effort to protect older adults in Shelby County, a population that is steadily growing as baby boomers become seniors. That means the need for support services also will increase, as will the possibilities of abuse.
Older adults have a wealth of skills and knowledge they have developed over a lifetime of experiences. They add strength and wisdom to our community. Let’s all work in any way we can to prevent elder abuse before it happens.
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/ .