They are our most vulnerable population. They are our moms, grandmas, and papas. They are our gentle generation in their golden years. Their final years.
Now, they are older and need protection. Most at this time are from the "greatest generation."
They should be revered, loved and protected. They are trying to just make it... with dignity and strength, while they face their latest years.
We all are going to face this. It's inevitable. We get old. Period.
There is an agency in Wilson County that cares about our elders. The Wilson County Sheriff's Department has declared this entire month Elder Abuse Month.
They are shining the light, spotlighting that light, on how we can help our elders.
Today is national Elder Abuse Day
How have we let them fall through the cracks? How can we protect these people who are so full of wisdom?
They lived their lives, reared their children - been there, done that. Now what?
According to Debbie Pare, head of SCAN (Senior Citizens Awareness Network) with the Wilson County Sheriff's Department, elder abuse is in our midst.
There's a grim picture of seniors who have been abused, neglected and exploited, often by people they trust the most.
Yes, it's happening. Right here in Wilson County.
Sadly, abusers may be spouses, family members and friends, professionals in positions of trust... Or opportunistic strangers who prey on vulnerable people.
According to reports, one in 10 older people experience abuse. But only one in 23 cases are reported.
Pare deals with elderly on a daily basis. Elder abuse can happen to any older person, your neighbor and your loved one... even you.
Pare and her crew each day visit our elderly and check to make sure they are OK. This is why this red flag day is so important to her. To raise awareness and inform.
Tennessee is a state where it's mandatory to report child abuse. It is also a state that mandates we report elder abuse.
What is elder abuse?
In layman's terms, elder abuse refers to the intentional, or neglectful, acts by a caregiver or "trusted" person that leads to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder
Basically, that could be neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, verbal abuse and threats, financial abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse and even abandonment. In our state, self-neglect is considered mistreatment, according to Wilson County Sheriff's Department Lt. Don Witherspoon.
Witherspoon said elder abuse is becoming more and more prevalent.
"I don't know if it's more cases, or more people are aware and report it," he said. "June 15 is world-wide Elder Abuse Day. We declared the whole month. We want people aware. We are highlighting this month. We have materials and agencies to report to."
Pare said the SCAN program has worked hard to position itself as a creditable resource within the community.
"We are called to be vigilant and responsive to protect our treasured seniors," she said. "We often receive calls from concerned citizens in our office. We want people to understand that while it's the law that your concerns are reported, you are not required to prove it. That is the job of the professionals."
What to look for
Pare said elder abuse is an under-recognized problem with devastating and even life-threatening consequences.
"The most important thing is to be alert," she said. "The suffering is often is silence. If you notice changes in personality or behavior, you should question what is going on."
While one sign does not necessarily mean abuse, some telltale signs show there could be a problem.
- Bruises, pressure marks broken bones abrasion and burns
- Unexplained withdrawal unusual depression
- Sudden changes in financial situation
- bedsores, poor hygiene and weight loss
- behaviors such as belittling, threatening and other uses of power and control by family members.
Pare said they are just simple facts. She wants their ultimate goal to be for people to know the facts, and report it, it's the law.
"Save a life," she said.
Pare said the biggest things to look for are neglect, abandonment and financial or material exploitation.
Neglect is refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an elder, Witherspoon said.
Financial or material exploitation is very prevalent in Wilson County, they said. Family members "fake" power of attorney and bleed their elder of money. It's illegal to claim power of attorney without the exact approval of the elder.
Reporting elder abuse
If a situation appears to be life threatening or a crime is in progress, call 911.
Also, call Adult Protective Service at 1(888) 277-8366. Initial investigation on elder abuse can be referred to WCSO at (615) 444-1412 ext. 499