The people's voice of reason

New District Attorney to focus on elder abuse

Reducing the number of elder abuse cases in the River Region area, and declaring war on abusers will be a major focus on May 9, of the yet-to-be-named Montgomery area elder abuse prevention council when it meets at Cara Vita Independent Living Community. At this time Daryl Bailey, Montgomery County's new District Attorney, will talk to the group and discuss his plans to create a local elder justice task force.

So, look out wrongdoers, the old folks are on the war path; sentiments that should encourage District Attorney Bailey, who points out that bad memories are a major problem. “Both police officers and prosecutors find that seniors don't make good witnesses.” As we age we become more forgetful, and our retention span diminishes, which poses a major hurdle in making a case for elder abuse. “If we're going to be successful in our focus on elder abuse we need to build a good case around the victim,” he explained.

All of which should be encouraging news to the Central Alabama Aging Consortium people since elder abuse has become a major effort on their part. This has been reenforced by the major role the River Region members of the Alabama Silver-Haired Legislature have played in getting the elder abuse laws passed.

River Region seniors may take heart in the efforts on their behalf that have been exerted by the ASHL, CAAC, and District Attorney Bailey, to make a serious dent in the elder abuse statistics; which have become staggering. For example, each week, Robyn James, your humble servant's multi-talented contact at the Department of Senior Services, sends forth a weekly report on who's abusing whom across the country. In a recent submission there was an unbelievable number of cases, some of which are reported below.

Near to home, an Anniston man recently reported that a man from Hong Kong called him on the telephone to inform him that he'd won $500,000. Fortunately for him he hung up on him. Seniors should beware of people with foreign accents who call with unbelievable financial opportunities. The only person who will make any money on them is the caller. Efforts to do seniors out of their savings, or to do them physical mischief has become pandemic. Don't trust anyone; especially someone who calls you on the phone.

Elsewhere, in California, a woman who was undergoing surgery was sexually assaulted by a nursing assistant. In another part of the state, a dementia patient was bilked out of more than $700,000 by another woman; and in Santa Barbara a 48-year-old man was sentenced to eight years in prison for beating up on a 71-year-old at an AA meeting.

Nearby in Georgia, a Bibb County grand jury indicted a women for verbally abusing and withholding care from a 96-year-old woman in her care; and in Maryland a grand jury is adding seven counts to the murder and assault charges of a man who fatally stabbed his grandparents.

In Minnesota a male caregiver drugged and raped an 89-year-old woman at a seniors home, for which he received a 10-year, $10-million sentence should he ever try such a thing again. And rape was the charge in Duluth, Minn.; where a nursing assistant at an independent living facility abused a woman in his charge. He faces an undisclosed settlement.

In Columbia, MO, an elderly man was neglected by his caregiver in a cockroach infested, filthy garage. Likewise, a caregiver in Cooper County, MO, is wanted on suspicion of abusing her charge by leaving him in a filthy house with only a bucket for a toilet.

And in New Jersey a lawyer was found liable for trying to siphon off money from his own mother.

Then, in South Carolina, scammers bilked a woman out of $45,000 for phoney home repairs; and the list goes on, from state to state, across the country, elders are being abused by those in whom they placed a trust; but they're no longer getting by with it with impunity, for states like Alabama have enacted stronger laws against elder abuse.

Our state can be proud of its recently enacted elder abuse legislation. It's now up to those in positions of authority and responsibility to act on these instances; and it's incumbent upon the rest of us, well as friends and neighbors, to report elder abuses, and to bear witness when the time arises.

We now have strong laws against elder abuse; it's up to the citizens of Alabama to insure that they are supported and enforced.

We can no longer ignore this shame, and shrug it off as “not my responsibility.” Ferreting out instances of elder abuse, and enforcing the laws against them is a responsibility we must all assume.

Where are we headed?

Students of history in this country have been watching the chickens coming home to roost for some time now. With great discomfort we recall the observation of Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana that: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and we sadly nod our graying heads in agreement.

As far back as we have recorded the history of mankind we've seen the scenario replayed as great nations and civilizations, one after another, have struggled, risen, and then fallen. And now, in the United States, to quote an unknown observer of mankind's tragic route of self destruction: The chickens are coming home to roost.

Whether it was caused by venality or stupidity, the reality is that it's upon us, and we're doomed. The once great “Beacon on the hill” that Ronald Reagan mentioned in his farewell address to the nation, is rapidly fading.

It may be worth revisiting the actor-president's words once more: “I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.'"

To those of us stumbling about in our dotage, it's saddening to see the great promise unfulfilled. Fresh in our memories is America's emergence from the travails of World War II to become a world leader in industry, space exploration, science, the list of areas in which America has taken the lead is staggering in its breadth.

Yet in one presidential administration the great “American Dream” is now unraveling. And those of us who were a part of the “Dream” must watch it crumble, for we're now too old and feeble to do anything about it.

Our health care system has become a nightmare. Public education is a farce. Business and industry have left the country, our political system will soon be headquartered in the federal penitentiary, our military system is at war with itself, the list goes on.

For our generation, once known as “The Greatest Generation,” all that is left now is self preservation. We must, somehow, repeat the mistakes of civilizations past: the worst is yet to come.

Remember the fall of Rome; the tragedy portrayed in Charles Dickens' “A Tale of Two Cities” or the chronicles of pre-World War II Germany, where events had resulted in workers carrying their day's pay home in a wheelbarrow, to be spent as fast as possible, for tomorrow it would be worth even less.

This is where Obama's America is headed; and so it has been throughout recorded history: Nations are born, they struggle and grow, they peak; and then comes the inevitable fall.

The question responsible Americans must ask; and ask soon: Is it inevitable? Are we doomed to repeat history? Read the newspapers and watch events as they are honestly reported on television and the answer is painfully obvious.

Quod erat demonstrandum


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