Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

IDEAS & ISSUES 6/14: Protect Seniors by Taking Action When Signs of Abuse Appear

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

IDEAS & ISSUES 6/14: Protect Seniors by Taking Action When Signs of Abuse Appear

Article excerpt

Older Alabamians deserve to live with dignity and to be safe. But too many suffer the indignity of being abused, neglected or exploited.

It's been estimated that as many as 75,000 elder abuse cases occur in Alabama every year, although many are never reported. The problem is likely to get worse, with more of us growing older, living longer and requiring more care. AARP estimates that the number of Alabamians older than age 85 will grow by more than 75 percent in the next 20 years.

In Alabama and elsewhere, June is the designated time to call attention to elder abuse. Gov. Robert Bentley has proclaimed June 16 as Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Alabama. Throughout the month of June, the Alabama Department of Senior Services will be hosting events to discuss and educate the public about elder abuse.

At AARP Alabama, we proudly support these events to raise awareness about elder abuse, as well as the year-round effort to ensure the physical safety and financial security of our older citizens.

For us, there is no higher priority. We believe all Alabamians

deserve the right to grow old without fear -- especially the fear of being harmed or fleeced by someone they entrust with their care.

In Alabama, we are fortunate to have elected officials and public servants who take this problem seriously and who have taken significant steps to combat it.

A new elder abuse law that went into effect in January 2014 strengthened the penalties for all types of elder abuse in Alabama, including physical and financial abuse, and provided law enforcement with new tools to combat it. The proposal received overwhelming legislative support and was signed into law by Gov. Bentley.

Supporters of this law often cited the case of Virginia Freck of Montgomery. The 98-year-old Alzheimer's patient lost $2.5 million to a family friend who was supposed to look after her affairs. Instead, Joe Giddens used his power of attorney to drain Freck's life savings and indulge himself with toys and trips. Although Giddens pleaded guilty, he received no jail time; he ultimately ended up at a prison work-release center only because he failed to make his restitution payments. …

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