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DHR promotes Elder Abuse Awareness

Governor Bob Riley has proclaimed Monday to be World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The purpose of the day is to call attention to cases of elder abuse and how they might be prevented.

Just in the last year, the Alabama Department of Human Resources saw over 5,000 cases of elder abuse reported, with about 90 percent of those cases taking place in the victims’ own home.

Many people may not be aware of elder abuse and what it is.

“Elder abuse is the physical, emotional or financial abuse of anyone who is an elder,” said Florence Mitchell, director of Pike County DHR.

According to Mitchell, elder abuse is a largely unheard of problem.

“This is something that the general community isn’t aware of.

They think it can’t happen because the elderly are supposed to be revered and respected,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the problem with elder abuse was not as severe as in other parts of the state, but there are cases in Pike County.

“Here in Pike county, we probably have two to three new cases a month reported and about 50 cases ongoing at any given time,” Mitchell said.

One thing that contributes to the large number of occurrences across the state is the reluctance of victims to report their abuse.

“There are various factors that go into people’s reluctance to talk about this, with the main one being embarrassment,” Mitchell said.

However, while embarrassment may cause victims’ reluctance to come forward, there are other factors that contribute to the beginnings of abusive situations.

“Isolation tends to enable the abuse to begin and continue,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the general population could help to stop elder abuse by just keeping in touch with elders.

“One thing we can all do is to just be aware of the elders in the community,” Mitchell said.

“If you have friends, family or neighbors who are elders, it’s good to stay in pretty regular communication with them and just make sure they’re doing well.”

Mitchell will be attending a rally for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Montgomery on Monday, where directors of other DHR departments from across the state will meet to discuss the problem.

All people are encouraged to wear purple on Monday in support of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.