A case of elder abuse in the city of Staunton led to a 10-year prison term for a full-time caregiver on Thursday.
Jeannette Hymes, 50, was the sole caregiver for the victim, 85-year-old Russell Beach. Soon after Beach died in May 2010, an autopsy showed he was emaciated, and had suffered multiple injuries.
In addition to the death of Beach, are multiple allegations of sexual abuse at a Staunton nursing home. They're among thousands of cases that adult protective services look into each year. Many begin with a family member, friend or neighbor who steps up and speaks up.
Thursday was a rare conviction under the criminal code "abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult."
"They're hard cases to prove, because as the defense attorney said, old people die, old people fall, old people don't eat, old people don't go to the doctor when they should. And you've got to overcome all those things," said Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson.
Prosecutors did overcome that in the case of victim Russell Beach. His out-of-state family members said they never thought it could happen.
Lynn Harris with the Staunton Senior Center said, "If you have any suspicions at all, doesn't have to be founded... You don't have to do any research. You don't have to do anything except make a phone call to Adult Protective Services."
That agency is getting more calls, nearly 9,000 substantiated reports in Virginia last year. APS says financial exploitation has exploded since the start of the recession.
Nicole Medina with APS said, "There are a lot of people moving back in to their homes with their elderly or disabled relatives. And then you see folks utilizing those people's social security checks for their own needs, rather than taking care of their loved ones."
Senior advocates say there are still far more cases of elder abuse that go unreported.
Harris said, "Let's stop concentrating on whether or not someone's going to get in trouble. Let's concentrate on whether we're going to help somebody who really needs that help."
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