By Rockdale County Probate Judge Clarence Cuthpert, Jr.
June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and June 15 has been labeled World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Elder abuse is an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to someone age 65 years of age or older. Forms of elder abuse include: physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, neglect, financial, and exploitation.
A May 7, 2018 news report by Paul Singer, Investigative Editor for WGBH News in Boston, MA, titled, New Data Shows ‘Crisis’ of Elder Abuse, state the Federal Administration for Community Living estimated that in 2016, 1.5 million cases of abuse were reported to adult protective agencies around the country, and about half of those reports were deemed worthy of further investigation. Singer’s article further stated research indicates only 1out of 24 cases of elder abuse or neglect is ever reported to authorities, so if 1.5 million cases were reported, the total number of abuse cases could be more like 20 or 30 million. Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, Alice Bonner, was quoted as saying “It turns out that somewhere between 50 and 60 percent in general of perpetrators are actually family members, particularly with financial exploitation.”
According to a May 3, 2018 article in the Bloomberg News, by Nick Leiber, titled How criminals steal $37 billion a year from America’s elderly, “Some 5 million older Americans are financially exploited each year, as scammers and even family members target the most vulnerable.” The scammers also include, but are not limited to, business professionals, caregivers, and court appointed guardians and/or conservators.
The 65 years of age and older population in Rockdale County has grown significantly since 2010. From 2013 to 2017, there were approximately 488 elder abuse cases investigated by Adult Protective Services in Rockdale County. Our District Attorney’s Office have reported an increase in investigations of elder abuse cases as well. Therefore, District Attorney Alisha Johnson, Sheriff Eric J. Levett, and I, through a collaborative effort, along with the tireless efforts of Investigator Dawn Murrain of the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, recently formed the Protecting our Elderly and At-Risk with Resources for better Living (“P.E.A.R.L.”) program in Rockdale County.
P.E.A.R.L. is a multi-disciplinary team whose mission is to: 1) Elevate Awareness; 2) Respond in a timely manner; 3) Effectively Investigate; and 4) Preserve the protective processes of any reported abuse toward elderly and/or at-risk individuals in Rockdale County. We will collaborate with state and local agencies, as well as various service providers to ensure the safety and well-being of the elderly (65 and older) and at-risk (18 to 64 with a disability) in our community. Our goal is to provide assistance to our citizens who are alleged victims of abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect. With prompt reporting of alleged abuse, these individuals can be rescued from their abusers, and the perpetrators will be held accountable criminally and/or civilly when their actions warrant the same. Additionally, P.E.A.R.L. will focus on unlicensed personal care homes as well.
For additional information regarding P.E.A.R.L. or to report suspected abuse, you may contact Investigator Murrain at (770) 278-8159, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember, the life you save could be one of your own.