Thursday, June 04, 2009

Guest Column: "June is Senior Safety Month"

By Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel

June is senior safety awareness month. As our population ages, safety and security for senior citizens becomes increasingly important. According to the 2004 census, there are 36.3 million senior citizens in the U.S. and that number is expected to increase to 86.7 million by 2050. More and more seniors live in their own homes. Additionally, the average household income of a senior exceeds $100,000.

Health, wealth and long life sound like good news but there are reasons for caution. I am seeing an increasing number of thefts against senior citizens. Linda Price is one example. Price, a housekeeper, stole from several elderly clients over a two-year period. Kenneth Christian is another example. Christian tricked an 86 year old woman into paying for work on her home that he had never done.

Not all seniors are lucky enough to stay in their own homes. Many receive the care they need in nursing homes. Most of that care is of the highest quality. Occasionally it is not. Roxie Luff pocketed medicine while claiming it was given to patients in the nursing home where she worked as a nurse. Carrie Marshall was convicted of assaulting a patient at the health care facility she worked at.

Many crimes against the elderly are physical rather than financial. Senior citizens in frail health are particularly susceptible to personal crimes such as rape and assault, as well as crimes of neglect. Walter Gray, neglected by Sheila and Shaun Gray, two of his adult children, ultimately lost his legs as a result of his children’s failure to provide appropriate care for their aging father.

Targeting senior citizens is reprehensible. While we cannot create a conscience for criminals who would do such a thing, we can help our elderly friends and relatives by checking in on them regularly, helping them handle their finances if necessary and keeping an eye on caregivers. With extra care, our seniors can enjoy their retirement years, as they deserve.