HAZARD — May is Elder Abuse Awareness Month across the nation. On Friday, folks gathered at the Perry County Senior Citizens Center to show support for elders in the community and help raise awareness for a type of abuse that is far too common and often ignored.
According to Beth Caudill, who is the Senior Citizens Center Director, when the elderly are mistreated, their caregivers are usually the ones responsible for the abuse.
“Before I worked here, I worked for the school system,” said Caudill, “So, I have seen victims of abuse at all ages, and the sad thing is, there’s not much difference. I think it is important to raise awareness for elders just as much as with children because sometimes with elders the abuse is harder to see. Children will sometimes tell you when something is wrong, but adults usually won’t tell because they don’t want to get their family members in trouble.”
The senior citizens, who congregated at Friday’s event, were not oblivious to the threat of elder abuse. They shared stories of tribulations with each other and offered resistance through camaraderie. The day’s agenda, however, was not designed to be melancholy. Instead, the activities, which were planned throughout the morning, served as symbols of hope.
Patty Fugate of the Perry County Conservation District was present for the unveiling of a new garden, which the Conservation District donated to the Senior Citizens Center. The garden came complete with a well-constructed, rectangular bed made out of wooden beams, which was filled with fresh potting soil. Plenty of flowers and plants were waiting by the garden for the seniors to nurture and watch grow.
Rep. Fitz Steele attended the ceremony to show support for senior citizens in Perry County. Steele spoke with the Hazard Herald about his stance against elder abuse and ways he believes government should react to the issue.
“Abuse of the elderly is uncalled for,” said Steele, “Anyone who would abuse an elderly person is pathetic. It should be a felony with prison time and no bond going to the abuser. Even the mountain way of dealing with the problem is not enough punishment, and that is what I think about it.”
Perry County Judge Executive Scott Alexander also joined the ceremony to sign a proclamation declaring May as Elder Abuse Awareness month in Perry County.
“The seniors play a big role in our community and our society,” said Alexander, “And now that they are seniors, we need to take care of them. I encourage anyone who thinks there is abuse to report it. We’re just trying to make everyone aware that this month is Senior Abuse Awareness Month.”
The senior citizens huddled around their new garden, accompanied by members of the community, who were there to show support, and they planted flowers, which is a symbol of beauty and life renewed. In an act of fun, and a demonstration of uplifted spirits, the crowd received bubble wands and blew bubbles, which floated across the lawn and into the Perry County Park. The morning closed with everyone gathering for lunch and fellowship inside the center.
On May 25, WSGS, 101.1 FM in Hazard, will host a radio auction to raise money for the Senior Citizens Center. Anyone wanting to donate to the Perry County Senior Citizens Center can mail a check to 354 Perry Park Rd., Hazard, Kentucky 41701. On May 19, senior citizens from this area will travel to Knott County to participate in the Senior Games.
Along with physical evidence, such as bruises and lacerations, some of the warning signs to watch for with elder abuse include money disappearing from an elderly person’s funds, as well as malnutrition and poor hygiene from neglect. The telephone number to report elder abuse is 1-877-597-2331.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.