elder abuse

The Tallapoosa County Department of Human Resources encourages all community members to don purple attire Monday in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day declared by Gov. Kay Ivey.

For the last five years, the Tallapoosa County Commission has localized the proclamation designating this day for awareness in the county.

“We are so grateful for the commission’s continued support,” DHR director Brenda Floyd said. “Our population is getting older and we are seeing more and more reports not just with the elderly but we also serve disabled adults who may not be able to protect themselves.”

The Tallapoosa County DHR has two adult investigators on staff who follow up on reports of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation.

“It’s so important that we do something to protect this cherished population who is the most vulnerable,” Floyd said. “It’s shocking to see how this population is taken advantage of. They deserve so much more.”

Elderly and disabled adults often face neglect or exploitation from family members or those close to them and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Floyd is especially concerned about the safety of this group.

“There are concerns with people already being isolated and may be taken advantage of even more so then if times were typical,” she said. “Sometimes it may be by someone else or even self-neglect. We receive calls for someone who is unable to care for themselves and needs assistance. We can connect them with the right resources. We do a variety of things to help these clients because at that age if you start having health issues, you become dependent on others.”

In the fiscal year 2019, DHR investigated 10,827 reports of suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults statewide.

“Our goal is to try to get the word out,” Floyd said. “Purple is the color representing (Elder Abuse Awareness Month) to show support.”

Tallapoosa County DHR will hang a large purple ribbon on its oak tree outside the building and all staff members will be wearing purple.

Floyd partnered with Lake Martin Area United Way and other community partners to send out email blasts and social media posts to help spread the word.

“Earlier this week, I gave ARISE bus drivers and staff purple ribbons and brochures about adult abuse,” Floyd said. “People like ARISE drivers are oftentimes the eyes and ears for us if they see something that doesn’t seem right. They develop relationships with these riders and can let someone know to contact us or they can call us directly.”

It seems unfathomable to many, people will develop false friendly relationships with these adults to gain their trust and sometimes get access to their bank accounts and wipe out their money. 

“Sometimes people are embarrassed to tell someone that happened to them,” Floyd said. “This population has the potential to be exploited in so many ways. It’s a travesty we have individuals that do this.”

If there is suspected abuse or neglect, an anonymous report can be made to the statewide Adult Abuse Hotline at 800-458-7214 or local DHR at 256-825-3700.

“We love our elderly; they’ve contributed so much to our society and are so vital,” Floyd said. “Whether you’re in the field or at the office, working remotely (Monday) we need to purple out in Tallapoosa County. It doesn’t always have to be big to get the message out.”

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.