A SWAT team for seniors

New task force to punish elder neglect/abuse badly needed

Nearly a dozen people died in a sweltering Florida nursing home during Hurricane Irma. But it doesn’t take natural disasters to pose dangers to seniors.

 

According to the National Council on Aging, up to 5 million seniors are abused each year, with only about one in 14 being reported to authorities.

Neglect — willful, passive and even benign — can be as deadly and destructive as more active maltreatment. Abuse and neglect, says the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, can result in “the loss of independence, homes, life savings, health, dignity, and security” — as well as shorter life expectancy and death.

Irma highlighted the problem of elder neglect and abuse, but even as dangerous as the elements can be for seniors, human action and inaction are a much more proximate peril.

That’s why we’re so heartened to have reported the recent formation in Augusta of a multi-agency Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly task force. The brainchild of District Attorney Natalie Paine, CAVE will be headed by respected DA investigator William Loomer.

The task force brings together the DA’s office, sheriff’s and marshal’s offices, coroner and fire department — all of whom will interface with care home inspectors.

A Chronicle investigation last April discovered life-threatening conditions in about a third of Richmond County personal care homes over the past three years. In one, former Army veteran and Marine Gregory Lauderdale, who had survived five strokes and diabetes, reportedly sustained a fatal wound he avoided in the military: a bedsore so neglected it spread into his bones. He died at 60 on Jan. 31, 2013.

Suspiciously, Lauderdale’s bank card was used frequently during his stay at Open Arms care home, including at a liquor store — he didn’t drink — and his account was emptied out by the time he died.

“No one has been held responsible for his death, or for the depletion of his bank account,” wrote The Chronicle’s Sandy Hodson.

Here’s hoping the new CAVE task force sees to it that never happens to another disabled veteran or anyone else dependent on society’s care.

It’s a crime, and needs to be treated as such.

 

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