FLORENCE — Pam Gilbert said elder abuse is one of the most under reported problems facing senior adults.

“It is a growing problem that needs to be addressed,” said Gilbert, director of the adult protective services for the Lauderdale County Department of Human Resources.

Local officials are trying to bring more attention to elder abuse through numerous activities associated with Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Thursday. Officials with area human resources departments will hold events in downtown Florence at Wilson Park and First Baptist Church, which is on Wood Avenue across from the park. Activities are planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Jerry Groce, director of the Franklin County Department of Human Resources, said elder abuse is not always physical.

“More often it is either financial, mental or just neglect,” Groce said.

Gilbert said financial abuse directed toward seniors is growing quickly.

“They trust someone to take care of their finances, but these people abuse that trust and take advantage of the situation to take from the elderly,” Gilbert said.

She said one startling case involved an elderly couple who hired someone to be a live-in caregiver. They gave the person access to their finances, and the result was not good.

“The caregiver ended up getting access to their debit cards and credit cards and almost wiped them out,” Gilbert said.

Groce said each year the Alabama Department of Human Resources investigates receives more than 5,000 reports of elder abuse and neglect.

Gilbert said information will be available at the event to shed light on the growing problem. She said among the activities will be a balloon release at Wilson Park between 10-11 a.m. From 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., a virtual dementia tour will be held at First Baptist Church.

She said the virtual tour gives people a first-hand perspective of what it is like to have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“A person will go into a make-shift apartment and will be deprived of their basic senses, just like someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s goes through every day,” Gilbert said. “It’s only eight minutes, but it gives people a chance to live the life of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s a very emotional eight minutes.” Groce said organizers hope the program will bring a new perspective and understanding of elder abuse.

“We want people to know what elder abuse is, how to recognize it and what to do to get these victims help,” he said.

Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.

Want to go?

What: Elder Abuse Awareness Day

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday

Where: Wilson Park and First Baptist Church fellowship hall in downtown Florence

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Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.

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