Elder abuse happens every day all around us and many people are unaware of what it is, where it is occurring, how to report it and how to get help. Although today is officially World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Sheriff Robert Bryan through the WCSO SCAN (Senior Citizens Awareness Network) Program is trying to raise awareness to this devastating and often life-threatening crime throughout the month of June.
“There are so many different kinds of abuse that go undetected because many people do not know it is happening, how to report it or who to contact for help,” Sheriff Bryan said. “Our SCAN program and other members of our department have been dropping off information and making appearances throughout the month to help educate people in Wilson County to this heart-wrenching crime.”
Debbie Parè and Sgt. Don Witherspoon who are in charge of the WCSO SCAN program, and all-volunteer organization designed to help seniors with a variety of problems, say they have seen and heard of many unspeakable abuses of senior citizens.
“We have the resources here at the Sheriff’s Office to investigate and evaluate reports and/or suspicions of possible elder abuse,” Parè said. “Unfortunately, many people are unaware of what constitutes elder abuse in its many forms. Sometimes violence or neglect of an elderly victim is the result of an overworked and tired caregiver. We can be a resource.”
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is officially recognized June 15, but Wilson County Sheriff’s Office is bringing the much underreported crime to the forefront through a variety of events during the month. For instance, Parè, Sgt. Witherspoon and WCSO Detective Walker Woods recently appeared on the Coleman Walker Show (WANT/WCOR) to describe the crime and what people can do to help recognize it and find resources to help. WCSO officers and SCAN volunteers continue to distribute flyers and holding educational meetings with organizations most likely to come in contact with seniors to discuss elder abuse.
Tennessee is a state that mandates reporting of any elder abuse without having to prove it. “We are now seeing more reports of abuse,” Sgt. Witherspoon noted as the crime gets more attention. “It includes physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Are you aware you can be both the instigator and victim of elder abuse simply by neglecting yourself? This occurs when someone is depressed, suffers dementia or other problems and lives in unsafe conditions such as a house that should be condemned.”
Parè noted that people often do not report abuse for fear of reprisal. “But you can report it with 100 percent confidentiality. Reporting is your only responsibility. Proving it is the responsibility of the agencies.”
Law enforcement, however, must often rely on people noticing there’s a problem with an elderly person. People who most often come into contact with an elderly person are those at the doctor’s office, grocery store, church or a neighbor.
For more information about Elder Abuse, contact the National Center on Elder Abuse at www.ncea.aoa.gov or call Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. If you know someone is in a life-threatening situation or immediate danger, call 911. The YWCA has a 24-hour Crisis and Information Line in Middle Tennessee at 615-242-1199 or 1-800-334-3628. To get more information about the SCAN program, go to the WCSO website at http://wcso95.org/home/senior-citizens-awareness-network/ or call the SCAN Office at 615-444-1412, ext. 499.