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Local seniors: Elder abuse more common than thought

Abandonment, neglect "saddest of all"

SAN ANTONIO – Last month’s case of a son who allegedly robbed and beat his 83-year-old mother with a tire iron after she refused to give him more money, is shocking to many of the regulars at the District 2 Senior Center, but not that surprising.

They said they’re all too familiar with the issue of elder abuse.

“It’s true. That happens all the time,” said Jewel Watson Valentine. “It even happened in my neighborhood.”

Valentine said one of her old friends died as a result.

“Her son came home, asked her for some money, and she didn’t give it to him,” Valentine said. “Guess what he did? He killed her.”

Erma Coleman Harris said often seniors are victimized by family members freed from prison.

“They can be cousins, nieces, nephews. They will force you, take your money,” Harris said.

But Judy Sly said other forms of elder abuse often go unreported, “Abandonment and neglect, that’s the kind you don’t see and that’s the saddest of all,” Sly said.

Blanca Cook, manager of the Senior Center on South W.W. White, said they see signs of elder abuse a few times a year. 

“Nonetheless, one case is one case too many,” Cook said.  

Cook said she and her staff, including caseworkers and a nurse, are trained by Adult Protective Services on what to look for and how to respond. She said they are known as “mandated reporters” who must immediately contact APS about any suspected cases of elder abuse.

“We get them to trust us. We get them to confide in us,” Cook said.

She said by simply asking how they’re doing, her staff can notice changes in their emotional health, while the nurse checks for any signs of physical signs of abuse.

If they’re nervous about going through an agency, Harris said she suggests perhaps first contacting a pastor or someone they trust.

A retired registered nurse, Sly said, “Everything they say, helps another person.” The APS 24-hour hotline number is 1-800-252-5400.