On any given day in Chatham County, there may be a caregiver or relative taking advantage of a senior citizen. It could be stealing the elder’s money or it may be worse: physical, mental and even sexual abuse.
Now advocates say there is a place for seniors (anyone age 50 and over) in distress to go for help. They have opened up a new office located inside the Candler Infirmary at 1900 Abercorn Street in Savannah.
“We encourage seniors who have been victims of elder abuse whether it’s financial exploitation, physical abuse, mental abuse to speak up and don’t feel alone because we don’t want them to feel isolated,” said Dionne Lovett from the Area Agency on Aging. “Because now there’s an opportunity for anonymity so seniors don’t have to feel like they’re in the spotlight, they can come and report the abuse.”
Seniors can talk with a counselor and depend on that person to navigate the resources available in the community, including police.
“There’s a stigma about coming forward on issues like this, a lot of it is embarrassment, a lot of it is not wanting to let family members know what’s happened to them,” says Major Robert Gavin of the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department. “And I think a place like this gives them an outlet (especially) if they don’t feel comfortable calling 9-1-1 so advocates here can help work them work through the system and get us involved.”
Keisha Gibson-Carter from the Rape Crisis Center says this project allows them to broaden their reach. “From financial exploitation to domestic and sexual violence, she says seniors “are often marginalized and suffer in silence.”
Gibson-Carter says the goal is to help seniors find their voice and receive the help they deserve. She says since April, they have identified 21 potential cases of elder abuse. “It says that this program is definitely needed in our community and it’s a blessing to be able to offer a project that’s poised to respond proactively versus being reactive,” she said.
Any senior who needs help is urged to call the 24 hour crisis hotline at 912-417-3469.