Conference on Elder Abuse Held at Blue Ridge Community College
Police, prosecutors, and caregivers meet for a conference on elder abuse at Blue Ridge Community College.
Police, prosecutors, and caregivers in the Shenandoah Valley are better prepared to put people who abuse seniors behind bars. A day-long conference on identifying and investigating elder abuse took place Monday at Blue Ridge Community College.
The number of reported cases of elder abuse in Virginia increased 4.6 percent from 2010 to 2011. Investigators identified 8,941 victims, but police and prosecutors admit it's not easy to get a criminal conviction.
Brenda Neff attended for her mother.
"I want that time with her that she has left to be a good time, but there always seems to be some kind of conflict," said Neff.
She says an assault case against a worker at her mother's assisted living facility failed to reach a conviction.
"I care about people, and I don't like to see these kinds of things happening to people who can't defend themselves," said Neff.
Neff and more than 120 people who work with seniors took part in Monday's free training.
Detective Ericka Stropka is dedicated entirely to investigating elder abuse cases back home in Tucson, Arizona.
"The biggest challenge we have in dealing with vulnerable adult cases is that a lot of the time we don't have the victim to tell us their story," said Stropka.
She's encouraging police, prosecutors and social workers to create a community collaboration to convict elder abusers.
"We can find ourselves being too late - we've lost evidence or certain information is out there and the things that were occurring are no longer occurring," said Cpl. Derek Almarode of the Augusta County Sheriff's Office.
That's why investigators say it's important to immediately report suspected abuse or neglect.
"If your gut tells you something is wrong, don't hesitate. At least make that first call," said Stropka.
Neff plans to use her training experience to become an advocate for the elderly - and she offers this advice for family members who believe their loved one is being abused:
"Be there. Be there to see what's going on. Be there to do what you can for that person."
The Greater Augusta Coalition Against Adult Abuse organized the conference. For more information, click here. To report an elder abuse case, call the 24-hour Adult Abuse Hotline at 1-888-832-3858.
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