Georgia Investigates Ways to Prevent Elder Abuse

Elder abuse 1There’s an underlying anxiety apparent among officials, who think that the issue will continue to plague at-risk Georgians until tougher protocols are put in place to track offenses.

Even with a new statewide focus on the issue, Georgia doesn’t have an elder abuse registry like the states of Tennessee and New Hampshire have created. These are two of the leading states in addressing elder abuse.  As the number of elderly in the state rises, ending elder abuse has become one of Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan's major objectives.

Keenan called elder abuse “an iceberg crime", because you only see a small part of the criminal activity—the rest is out of sight and unknown. The elderly population in the state of Georgia is increasing rapidly. In metro Atlanta, the number of people over 60 quadrupled between 1970 and 2015, presenting a significant issue for law enforcement. One in five Georgians are elderly or disabled and 10% are victims of physical or financial abuse.

Elder abuse "has been going on in the dark for a number of years, and we're finally paying attention to it and starting to address the issue," said Kathy Floyd, the executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging. Some state officials have expressed concern that this type of exploitation will continue until more is done to stop it.

"There is an institutional concern," said Wendell Willard, a state representative who introduced a bill in 2015 that tightened elder exploitation laws. "Unfortunately, a lot of people don't have family institutions they can call on to help them out," Willard said.

Proponents of an elder abuse registry say it would operate like child and sexual abuse registries track people. Some feel that a registry would help Georgians make decisions about the care of their loved ones. State lawmakers discussed the possibility of an elder abuse registry in the last legislative session. However, the effort began too late to gain any traction. Georgia lawmakers have been working on instituting a registry, and they expect to see a bill introduced in the next legislative session.

Reference: US News (July 9, 2017) “Georgia Must Do More to Track, Prevent Elder Abuse, Some Say”


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