Elderly Abuse Up Says Local Judge

They're supposed to be enjoying their golden years, but more and more the daily lives of our elderly includes neglect and abuse.

In the last few years Chancery Court Judge Margaret Alfonso says cases of alleged elderly exploitation has jumped dramatically.

Now the Judge Alfonso has joined a campaign to make communities aware of what happening to some of its vulnerable citizens.

In the last five years the calls to Judge Alfonso from banks and financial institutions concerned about their elderly clients have become frequent.

"A brokerage house called recently and someone had appeared there will a power of attorney and was going to withdrawal an elderly person's life savings," said Alfonso.

Fortunately, the person handling the request at the brokerage house had enough concern to call the courthouse.

Every chance she gets, Alfonso speaks to community groups about the growing crises of elderly exploitation, physical abuse and neglect. She showed Lions club members photographs of some of the living conditions.

"I've been given photographs of a home that was absolutely covered in dog excrement where an elderly woman was living. And the social workers took photographs of the refrigerator and there was virtually no food in the refrigerator," Alfonso said.

The situation is made worse by a severely understaffed Department of Human Services. Judge Alfonso says up until this year, there was just one social worker investigating elderly abuse cases for four South Mississippi counties.

"Hopefully the bill that Governor Barbour signed yesterday (Wednesday) that created the child protection specialists will also help the elderly and the vulnerable in that it will free up more of the social workers to devote more of their time to the elderly."

In a society where families sometimes turn their back on the elderly says Judge Alfonso the state will have to come up with new laws to protect is oldest residents.

Last year DHS investigated more than 14 hundred cases of elderly abuse statewide.

Judge Margaret Alfonso believes banks and other financial institutions would be more likely to report suspected exploitation if given immunity for civil suits.