One issue that continues to get attention through the West Virginia Legislature’s Interim Meetings is the topic of elder abuse.
During the last interim meeting of the PEIA, Seniors and Long Term Care Committee that I am a member of, we were informed that elder abuse is robbing the nation of some $3 billion each year, and in steadily aging West Virginia, the problem is a drain on the economy.
Last year, there were 14,775 referrals to the Bureau of Children and Families asking it to look into suspected elder abuse and neglect, a field consultant from the Bureau told us. As a result, he said the agency led more than 6,000 investigations and, on average, about 10 percent of such inquiries prove to be genuine.
He also referred to elder abuse as “the silent crime of the 21st century” and suggested it can transcend all groups. Last year, he pointed out, West Virginia’s population stood at 1,855,800 and 16.8 percent were 65 and older. In 17 years, the population is expected to rise to 1.9 million, and 24.8 percent of that figure will be classified as senior citizens. Nationally, the percentage will be 20 percent.
The Bureau of Children and Families investigates suspected abuse and neglect on all fronts, homes, the community, institutions such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and non-residential settings including day treatment programs. Anyone who feels victimized can file an individual report to the proper agency for an investigation.
He further told us that between 200 and 300 cases normally are considered actual criminal offenses, but he didn’t immediately have a breakdown as to the numbers committed by family members and nursing facilities. Training is available so that care-givers understand how to cope with an elderly person and what is expected of them.
The committee chairman with the will of the committee told the presenters that we would be willing to tweak any existing laws or propose new ones, if they think this is needed in the upcoming 2014 session. We have to give the people working on the front lines the tools necessary to not only care for our aging population but to also recognize when and where abuse may be taking place and address and stop it immediately.
I will do everything in my capacity as a Delegate in the West Virginia Legislature to ensure that our elderly and aging population gets the quality care and protection they need and deserve. Any person who would abuse an elderly person under their care, whether physically, mentally or financially, should be dealt with in the harshest manner. This week we will be meeting once again in Charleston for Interim meetings and I hope this issue remains front and center.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or bills before the legislature please feel free to contact me. To write me, my address is Delegate David Walker, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 203-E, Charleston, WV 25305. Or you may call me at (304) 340-3135. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process.