June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. There is so much to say about the neglect, abuse, and exploitation of older adults in Georgia. Let’s start with the fact that 1 in 9 adults over the age of 60 are abused. According to the GBI, there were 2,082 criminal charges brought against elder abuse perpetrators in 2016. This was an increase from 366 in 2010.
As the number of older adults grows in our state, we have an increasing number of potentially vulnerable adults. Recent stats show that one in five Georgians are elderly or disabled. In addition to the growing number of potential victims, Georgia has been working hard to educate law enforcement, district attorneys, mandated reporters, and the community about this growing epidemic.
Despite the increase in elder abuse cases, it is still one of the most unreported and undetected crimes in the United States.
What Is Elder Abuse?
According to Georgia law, elder abuse includes physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse, neglect and self-neglect.
Do you see any burns, bruises and injuries that don’t seem related to the older person’s medical condition?
Do they have bedsores?
Do you see changes in personality or behavior?
Is there noticeable tension or friction between the older person and their caregiver?
Has the older person lost weight?
Are they dirty, or are their clothes dirty?
Are glasses broken and over time not repaired and taken care of?
Do you see signs of possible restraint, like rope marks or bruising on wrists or other parts of the body?
Does the older adult complain of sexual harassment, name-calling, intimidation, belittlement, or threats of abandonment or violence?
Are their valuables or personal belongings missing?
Is the older adult receiving eviction notices or notices of other unpaid bills?
Is the older adult excluded from financial and healthcare decisions even though they have capacity to make their own decisions?
Sometimes elder abuse is obvious, but often the signs can elude us. Not everyone who abuses older adults will seem like a criminal. If you see something that looks like abuse, it’s your responsibility to report it so that authorities can intervene. Elder abuse is a criminal offense in Georgia, and this even applies to financial exploitation.
Georgia has strict mandated reporting laws that require medical professionals, caregivers, and even employees of financial institutions to report elder abuse to local authorities as well as to Adult Protective Services. In 2017, Adult Protective Services received more than 43,000 reports of suspected elder abuse. Of those reports, more than 19,000 were investigated and more than 3,000 became long-term investigations.
Each of the clinical social workers at Mindful Transitions is a mandated reporter. We report signs of suspected abuse, exploitation, or neglect (including self-neglect) to the proper authorities. Elder abuse is a growing problem in Georgia, and we all have a responsibility to stop it and to protect vulnerable adults.
Adult Protective Services
Healthcare Facilities Regulations (for reporting abuse in care facilities)