Shelby County DA, advocates say speak out against elder abuse

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A 50-year-old Memphis caregiver is facing elder abuse charges.

It’s a problem that’s on the rise and one that wasn’t always reported, especially during the pandemic.

“They are on the rise because the awareness is on the rise,” said Amy Weirich the Shelby County District Attorney General.

One of the latest suspected cases of elder abuse happened on May 18, at the Inn-Town Suites on Ridgeway Road. Police arrested 50-year-old caregiver Helena Cates and charged her with aggravated neglect and financial exploitation of an elderly adult.           

Police say Cates was supposed to be caring for 80-year-old Revel Foren. She was found in Cates’ motel room extremely dehydrated and emaciated with a swollen left arm, left leg and upper right arm.

Weirich says her office is giving more attention to elder abuse cases.

“That is to look at cases of allegations of abuse against our vulnerable adults and see if someone can or should be prosecuted for that abuse, that neglect or that financial exploitation,” said Weirich.

Weirich says enhanced sentencing is also additional weapon.

“It’s given us another tool in the toolbox and now we’ve got a group that meets on a regular basis here in Shelby County, the group has grown since we started, and they review every allegation,” said Weirich.

Melanie Keller is the president and CEO, at Meritan, a large home health company. She says the pandemic is the cause of another problem for seniors.

“Due to in general isolation, people not getting out and about as much and now we’re seeing as a lot of these restrictions are being lifted and people are becoming more engaged, unfortunately we’re seeing the number of cases that are being reported,” said Keller.

Both Keller and Weirich say the public does have a responsibility to report elder abuse.

“My philosophy has always been when in doubt speak out,” Keller said.

Weirich added, “Not only should they, they have to because under the law the State of Tennessee they have a duty to pick up the phone and report that.”

Next Tuesday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On that day, the Shelby County District Attorney’s office and other agencies will raise awareness about abuse, neglect and exploitation.

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