State Orgs And Lawyers Work Together To Stop Elder Abuse

Jun 9, 2016

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Florida cracks down on elder abuse. 

It's one of eight states that requires all people to report elder abuse if they suspect it. Failure to do so is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Family members are some of the most frequent abusers seniors faces, says Elder Law Attorney Twyla Sketchley. However, this kind of abuse is more complicated than one would think.

"Often it's a stressed-out caregiver who's been providing 24 hour a day care," Sketchley says, "who's lost their job, who has no money. They haven't slept in days, and they're at their wits end. So when grandma asks for the 19th time what time it is, that person snaps and slaps them."

Sketchley joined a panel of state experts on WFSU's Perspectives to discuss how to protect Florida seniors and file reports of abuse. 

"Unfortunately, it is a more common issue than people realize," says Laura Copeland from the Area Agency on Aging for North Florida. "Last year, the [Florida] Department of Children and Families, their Adult Protective Services unit investigated over 50,000 cases."

But these are only reported cases.

According to the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, for every reported case of abuse, 24 go unreported.

Floridians can file reports of abuse or neglect by phone or online anonymously, Sketchley says.

"When you report it, it doesn't mean you have to have facts," she says. "You don't have to say, 'I saw the guy standing over her demanding her social security.' What you have to have is reason to believe. Your report is anonymous, and here's the beauty of it, there are deadlines to complete the investigation. If there's nothing to it, then there's nothing to it."