A combination of additional training for law enforcement personnel and stricter criminal penalties are being put into place in Georgia, but some are concerned that the one-two punch might not be enough.
Creating tougher protocols to track offenses, may be the missing piece in combating elder abuse among seniors in Georgia, according to several officials in a recent report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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.
US News explained in its recent article, “Georgia Must Do More to Track, Prevent Elder Abuse, Some Say,” that 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.
Supporters say that the elder abuse registry would operate much like child and sexual abuse registries now in use throughout the country. Many feel that it would help seniors and families making decisions about the care of their loved ones. For example, if someone needed a handyman, they could easily find out if the person had ever been convicted of financial exploitation or abuse or neglect of an elderly person. While the discussion about an elder abuse registry was initiated in the last legislative session, it began too late to get any real forward motion. However, a bill is expected to be introduced in the next legislative session, so it may become a reality soon.
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