By Kaitlin Fleming, Staff Correspondent
Approximately 5 million adults over the age of 60 have been victims of abuse. In Etowah County alone there were 309 cases of elder abuse in 2017.
The Council on Aging of Etowah County hosted the 13th annual Elder Abuse Summit last Wednesday, June 20, in commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. At the June 19 Gadsden City Council Meeting, Mayor Sherman Guyton proclaimed June 15 as Gadsden Elder Abuse Awareness Day to show that Gadsden stands against elder abuse.
The summit had over 160 people in attendance, and several vendors set up to help give information about reporting abuse, financial stability and much more. The instrumental event in raised awareness for a problem plaguing our aging nation. Every day, 10,000 people turn 65 in the United States alone.
Elder abuse can take on many forms, such as, neglect, physical abuse and financial exploitation.
Several speakers at the summit included Guyton, Director of DHR Teresa Sauls, attorney Bill Miller from Adams Miller Law Firm, Paula Knowles from Family Savings Credit Union and Tabitha Royal from AIDB Senior Services.
Guyton said that as our population ages we need to take on more responsibilities and take care of our neighbors. He also gave several tips to those in attendance.
“Do not pay anyone for a job they haven’t completed,” said Guyton. “If some people come to do a roofing job or any kind of job, do not pay them up front. Pay them when the job is completed.”
Financial security was one of the hot topics at the summit. Bill Miller from Adams Miller Law Firm laid out a plan for keeping one’s money safe.
“Have a solid power of attorney in place now,” said Miller. “If you can’t trust anyone you know, you can have the courts help you control your money. Be weary of having your family as co-owners of your bank accounts.”
Miller warned against co-owning bank accounts for several reasons, the main one being your co-owner’s credit. He gave the example of IRS liens and loan troubles.
“There was a woman who I represented that called me one Sunday night to tell me all of her savings, all $250,000 she had was gone,” said Miller. “Her son was a co-owner on her accounts, and her son neglected to tell her he owed over $500,000 in IRS back taxes and fees for his business in Birmingham. Since he was co-owner, the IRS seized that money.”
Miller said to prevent this sort of situation one could have a signer or someone who gains one’s money when one passes away, instead of having a co-owner.
Knowles provided some much needed advice on scam calls. She stressed the importance of keeping an eye on your credit score and your bank accounts.
“Check your accounts regularly,” said Knowles. “I check mine every night before I go to bed. When it comes to fraudulent activity you have a small window of time to report it. If you go months without checking your accounts, you may miss that window.”
Currently there are calls going around in Etowah County regarding Medicare cards. Scammers are saying they are from Medicare and need to verify one’s Medicare number to receive a new card. Medicare will not call unless someone calls them, and the company already knows member numbers and will not ask for it. A second Medicare scam is asking for one to pay for a Medicare card.
Jennifer Grace from the Council on Aging advised that Medicare cards are free and one will never be asked to pay for it.
Anyone having information about cases of elder abuse, may call the Adult Protective Services Hotline at 1-800-458-7214. Those who witness elder abuse can also report cases to local law enforcement.