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DHR asks public to help protect elderly

Those who reared and cared for us often become the recipients of abuse and neglect in their later years. They become society’s forgotten victims.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will be observed on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, a day for the entire world to focus on a problem not limited by geography; the mistreatment of our elderly citizens. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’s goal is to raise awareness of this too often unspoken problem. The Alabama Department of Human Resources and other governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as older persons themselves, will work together to promote a better understanding of abuse, neglect and exploitation of older persons by organizing activities around the world designed to raise awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

“The victims of this maltreatment are people who worked hard and made sacrifices to help their families and others have a better quality of life,” said DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “And now, in the autumn of their lives, it’s a bitter, cruel irony that many of them are being abused and neglected by their own relatives or caregivers.”

The staff at the Butler County Department of Human Resources believes the observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day focuses on a problem that is frequently overshadowed by other societal ills,

“Because the elderly don’t always receive the care and attention that they need, they are primary targets for abuse, neglect, and exploitation,” said Lesa Syler of DHR.

“Sadly, in many cases, the victims’ own children are the perpetrators, which can make investigating the reports an arduous task. As difficult a challenge as this may be, our adult protective service workers, with the help of our community partners, are committed to helping ensure the safety and well being of the elderly.”

In Fiscal Year 2009, the DHR investigated approximately 4700 adult protective service reports. About half of these involved reports of suspected abuse or neglect of persons who were at least 60 years old; in fact, most of them ranged from 75 to 84 years of age. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, it is estimated that for every one case of elder maltreatment reported to authorities, about five more go unreported.

“Please help us protect our vulnerable elderly citizens who have contributed so much to our community,” said Syler. Call Butler County DHR at (334) 382-4400 to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Reports may also be made toll free to 1-800-458-7214 or by email to aps@dhr.alabama.gov. All reports are confidential and may be made anonymously. “Your call may make a real difference in the life of one of your neighbors,” Syler noted.