TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Thousands of senior citizens are abused and neglected every day, and East Texans are bringing the issue to light with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. East Texas seniors are not immune to the problem.
The common misconception about elder abuse is that the abuse is only physical. But, the East Texas Council for Prevention of Elder Abuse (ETCPEA) says it's often mental and usually starts with the caregiver.
"If you're a family member and you've left your loved one with someone and you're not being able to have access to them - that's going to be a big red flag for you," said Greg Ortiz, with the ETCPEA.
Greer Smith owns Assurance of Care, a geriatric care management practice. He is working with an elderly woman, who week after week, paid the same company for a new roof that she had already paid in full.
"I believe that's up to around $80,000 that case is now," said Smith. "She's literally broke now, and the family's going to have to provide care for her because she's given her money away and she's not going to qualify for medicaid."
In 2008, Smith County fielded reports of almost 1,000 cases of elder abuse. Gregg County reported almost 600 cases. Commissioner Bill McGinnis' grandmother-in-law hired an uncertified caregiver from the want ads.
"It got to the point where we had very little access to my wife's grandmother," said McGinnis. "It got to the point where it even went so far as to go to court."
And the commissioner says she was worth well over $100,000.
"This was a situation where the person wasn't abused, was taken care of, but still was abused through mental intimidation and so on to turn over control of her assets," said McGinnis.
"There's a lot of citizens out here, the elderly, that are either living independently or living with a caregiver or somebody that's taking care of them that are being abused and nobody understands what's going on back there," said Ortiz.
McGinnis said when looking for a caregiver, hire someone with an established reputation.
"Not just allowing these people to hire somebody out of the clear blue, because, boy it could go south in a hurry," said McGinnis.
The law requires you to contact protective services if you know of a person 65 or older, or an adult with disabilities that is being abused or neglected.