Police share tips on how to recognize elder abuse

Elder abuse, in its many forms, is a tragedy that law enforcement deals with all too often.

In the United States, over five million cases of elder abuse are reported every year. Abuse of someone of advanced age may be in the form of physical, psychological or financial abuse. Willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult (over 18, with mental or physical dysfunction or advanced age), according to Tennessee Annotated 71-6-117, is a Class D felony.

Commander Coby Templeton, of the Fayetteville Police Department, explained that there are some signs people can look for if they suspect abuse.

If the elderly person often has signs of unexplainable bruises, cuts or broken bones, he or she may have been abused, Templeton said. Some other signs they are being mistreated include withdrawal, depression, anxiety or aggression.

Indications of neglect include unacceptable weight loss, untreated psychological issues, unsanitary living conditions or abandonment. Sometimes elders are deserted on the street.

Financial exploitation is another form of abuse, he noted. Predators may withdraw money from an elder’s bank account, steal money or valuables the person has on hand. Instead of paying the elder’s bills, a caretaker or person in charge of paying their bills might use the money for their own gain. They may steal the elderly person’s check, credit cards or debit cards.

One thing that raises eyebrows, Detective/Sergeant Dion Shockley said, is when a family member suddenly takes an interest in an elderly relative’s personal finances and wants to control them. The predator may start to go through the aged person’s money for his or her own personal gain. If law enforcement suspects financial theft, the financial records can be tracked, he noted.

“Adult Protective Services are a big help,” said Shockley.

Members of the community who suspect physical abuse should call 911 immediately. If the elder is not in immediate harm, you may call Fayetteville dispatch at 433-4522; Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-3866; or the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-356-6767.

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