Protecting the Elderly

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Unfortunately social workers say we're likely to see more cases of elderly abuse.

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd is finding the law, and the safety nets, are having a tough time keeping up.

Consider a case coming out of Georgia, two days ago Georgia deputies drove a 61-year-old man suffering from dementia back home to Sevierville, more than 200 miles. They say his wife left him in a fast food restaurant.

She won't be charged. Abandoning an adult isn't a crime in Georgia or Tennessee.

The challenge: how to protect the weak as our country grows ever older, and how to help the caregivers, who more and more, will be spouses and children.

"She's been bedridden since the last week of January." For most, of their more than half century together. The lady with the Katherine Hepburn cheekbones and the thousand watt smile, has been the painter, gardener, the crafter.

Six years ago: "A lot of people didn't know my wife had Alzheimer's," says John May.

Jean May today, "She's in the seventh stage, last stage."

At home, with husband John, only John, who must, round the clock "Change the diapers, feed her, and watch over her."

"Do you ever get frustrated?" Boyd asks John, who sits silently.

"That kind of says it all," Boyd says.

"They think they shouldn't need help," says Barbara Monte, from the Office on Aging. "We try to tell them it's in everybody's best interests to find out what resources are available."

The Office on Aging Offers train home caregivers.

John's found comfort in a support group.

"The thing they most often need is respite. They need to have a break," Monte says.

If you even suspect somebody is being abused, neglected, or defrauded, Tennessee Law says you have to report it. Knox County's Office on Aging turns over about 3 cases a month to Adult Protective Services.

Ironically, the law may be stronger, for a victim of fraud, rather than physical abuse.

"If they have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves, they often can refuse our service, and that happens sometime because people just want to be left alone, or don't want to admit what is happening," says Nancy Sentell from Tennessee Adult Protective Services.

"Many times caregivers, in the process of trying to take care of somebody, neglect their own health," Monte says.

John say he feels fine, But Faith and love sustain. For, then, now, always.

"She's first," he says.

The Office On Aging is putting together a respite program. Volunteers willing to step in, so home caregivers can get a break, if you'd like to help, or get some caregiver training call 524-2786.

If you suspect a senior's being abused, or defrauded, report it, toll free 1-888-277-8366.

Already, some 300 caregivers are on a waiting list, asking for respite.