WEYERS CAVE-- Members of law enforcement, social services workers, and prosecutors met on Monday for a training session on preventing and investigating elder abuse.
These are cases where older people or the incapacitated are physically abused or financially exploited.
Cpl. Derek Almarode from the Augusta County Sheriff's Office said officers don't know the full extent of the problem in the valley. Many of the cases go unreported.
Organizers said there was a good turnout for today's meeting. The Greater Augusta Coalition Against Adult Abuse organized it.
Sometimes the elderly are subject to abuse and neglect, either from care takers or family members. The physical abuse can also turn into stealing.
Cpl. Almarode said it can start when people are at an age where they need assistance. "You find yourself home bound, or something like that. You need assistance, and a family member is providing that, or a friend is providing that," he said. "Someone that you've trusted all your life, and you certainly trust them in that environment, and sometimes that's not the case. They're taking advantage of them."
These cases can be tough to prosecute. Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson said there are many challenges. "Part of the problem is that old people may be suffering from dementia, and they're not able to articulate the abuse and neglect. Another thing may be, they're afraid of the caregiver, and they won't blow the whistle on them because of that," he said.
Two members of law enforcement from Tucson, Ariz. offered ideas and tips on investigating and prosecuting these crimes. They are considered experts in the field.
The Virginia Adult Protective Services Hotline to report abuse, neglect, or exploitation is 1-888-832-3858.