An aging population and longer life expectancies have contributed to increased interest in public policy to prevent abuse and neglect of the elderly, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bob Blancato, the national coordinator for the Elder Justice Coalition, said Friday that significant progress has been made in the past three years to raise awareness and improve methods to prevent elder abuse. The Elder Justice Act was passed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act and is awaiting funding for the 2013 fiscal year.
Blancato was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Elder Rights Conference organized by the CSRA Area Agency on Aging and the CSRA Elder Rights Team. The event coincided with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
According to Blancato, the Justice Department estimates that 6 million elderly are victims of abuse each year. One in 10 people older than 60 is a victim of some form of abuse. Women between ages 75 and 80 who live alone are especially susceptible, Blancato said.
Categories of abuse include physical, emotional, sexual and caregiver neglect, with the two fastest-growing forms being financial abuse and self-neglect, he said. Self-neglect could involve living in unsanitary conditions or not caring for personal hygiene.
About 260 people attended the conference, including law enforcement personnel, adult protective service agents, judicial representatives, attorneys, social workers and nurses.
“Our area mirrors what is going on nationally. Because of the economy, the rise of financial exploitation is becoming a real problem,” said Lauren Spivey, the program manager for the CSRA Area Agency on Aging.
Blancato said the elderly have become targets for phone call scams, especially fake lottery ploys and investment opportunities.
Patricia King, a forensic special investigator for the Georgia Department of Human Services, said a task force has been created to crack down on a statewide problem of unlicensed personal care homes. The caregivers often take advantage of the elderly’s finances by controlling food stamps and Medicaid.