Elaine Wilson, long-term care ombudsman for the SOWEGA Council on Aging, addresses the issue of elderly abuse and neglect at a seminar Thursday at Phoebe East. Officials say that the issue is a growing problem.
ALBANY — The SOWEGA Council on Aging conducted a seminar at Phoebe East on Sylvester Road Thursday to educate the public about the rights senior citizens have when it comes to abuse and fraud.
The seminar, titled “Know Your Rights,” gave the full house in the Phoebe East conference room an overview on the impact of elder abuse and how to address it, and what to do about financial exploitation and health care fraud.
Elaine Wilson, long-term care ombudsman for SOWEGA, was there to discuss the elder abuse and neglect segment.
Officials say this is a growing problem, particularly cases involving family members.
“Neglect is on the rise and it is underreported,” Wilson said. “They would rather endure it than report a family member. We are trying (to encourage) them to report these crimes, because they are crimes.
“Your imagination could not conjure up (what happens in some cases of elder abuse).”
Among the resources available for reporting abuse or exploitation, aside from law enforcement, is the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services.
Amanda Carter, forensic special investigations unit program coordinator with Division of Aging Services, says that elder abuse could be on the rise not only because of the aging of the baby boomer population, but also with the economic climate influencing people to resort to taking advantage of senior citizens who have a stable flow of checks that come through.
“The one thing we say to people is that it is always better to report it than to keep silent,” she said. “Let (the appropriate agencies) figure it out.”
In regard to health care fraud, officials with the Georgia Department of Human Resources advise people to treat their Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like a credit card number, which means never giving them to strangers. They further suggest for people to remember that Medicare does not call or visit to sell people anything.
It is also recommended to read over a Medicare summary notice or an explanation of benefits and look for any products or services that are different from what a person has received, as well as for providers he or she does not know or any services that were billed twice.
At least two of the council’s board members, Board President Lorie Farkas and Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul, were in attendance, along with others from the Division of Aging Adult Protective Services and the Dougherty District Attorney’s Office.
People are encouraged to report abuse or potential scams by calling (866) 552-4464.