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Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse

January 29, 2013
A wife supports her husband as he learns to use his walker.

Georgia's population aged 60 and older has increased significantly in recent years, and the number of elderly individuals in the state is expected to keep growing. Georgia has taken many steps to meet the needs of these individuals, including elder abuse prevention and reporting.

Every day, older adults and adults with disabilities suffer from abuse, neglect and exploitation. While abuse either directly harms or places an older adult at risk, neglect finds a caregiver intentionally or unknowingly withholding basic necessities. Less understood than either abuse or neglect but just as widespread, exploitation or financial abuse occurs when caregivers improperly or illegally use resources for their own benefit. Caregivers, for example, may steal from older adults, misspend their government checks or trick them into rewriting their wills.

All of these abuses can occur in an older adult's own home or in a community living arrangement, and often, abusers are people these individuals trust the most. Though abuse can have devastating and life-threatening consequences, it continues to be one of the most undetected, under-recognized and underreported social problems in the United States.

If you're concerned an older adult might be suffering abuse, knowing signs and symptoms can help. Changes in a person's behavior or emotional state, including expressions of agitation, withdrawal, apathy, fear or anxiety, may suggest a problem. The refusal of a caregiver to allow you to visit the older person alone may also signal abuse. To learn more about forms of elder abuse, neglect and other safety concerns, visit the National Adult Protective Services Association.

In Georgia, the Department of Human Services' Division of Aging Services also assists older individuals, at-risk adults and persons with disabilities, their families and caregivers. In 2011, Adult Protective Services averaged more than 3,000 cases per month.

To report elder abuse, call Adult Protective Services at 404-657-5250 or 1-866-55AGING (1-866-552-4462; press "2") between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also report abuse online. If you perceive an immediate and serious risk, do not hesitate to call 911 for help.

About the Author

Sunita Kapahi writes about education, public safety, social services and transportation for GeorgiaGov. She is an Atlanta native and a graduate of Georgia State University.

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