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New report shows cases of elder abuse, neglect are on the rise in Texas

"We're getting a lot of self-neglect cases,” caseworker Elizabeth Hernandez said. “I would say just due to the rising cost of living.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Adult Protective Services (APS) has released a report that found the number of cases of abused, neglected or exploited elders has exceeded pre-pandemic levels. 

"We're getting a lot of self-neglect cases,” said Elizabeth Hernandez, an APS caseworker. “I would say, just due to the rising cost of living, a lot of clients, you know, have their limited income – Social Security, disability. And so, with the cost of rent going up, groceries are going up ... they are not making ends meet as they used to.” 

APS reports that during 2020, the pandemic led to fewer reports of abuse. But now that the pandemic's effects have eased, cases are at an all-time high. 

In 2019, there were a total of 117,073 reports. In 2020, that number went down to 115,442. In 2022, the number of cases increased by about 5,000, with a total of 119,449 cases for the 2022 fiscal year.  

"With more people being out and making appointments in person, those cases are coming out more,” Hernandez said. “You know, we received reports of, 'Something happening six months ago, but because of X, Y, Z, we [they] couldn't say anything.' And so, unfortunately, with the pandemic, it just kind of made it difficult for us to know who needed help." 

Hernandez said during the pandemic there was a decrease in social interaction. Many elders didn’t have the opportunity to confide in their doctors, friends and family members about their problems. Some people also weren't able to visit their elderly loved ones and see the state they were living in.  

While the pandemic impacted many, Hernandez said there aren't enough qualified people to take care of older adults, leading to more cases of abuse and neglect.

"I would say part of it is that there are not enough caregivers available,” Hernandez said. “The pay isn't very great, so it's difficult to get the people that are in it and care about the client." 

RELATED: 'The worst compensated job in Texas' | Texas is facing a worsening home caregiver shortage

These are vulnerable adults who are taken advantage of. But when the cases are reported and caseworkers work to assist them, there are a couple of programs around to help elders get back on their feet. Silver Star Resource rooms are one of those resources and can be found across the state. 

"We have food in here," Hernandez said. “We have walkers and shower chairs. We also have donated items like deodorants, toothbrushes and things for our homeless clients.” 

These rooms provide elderly people with necessities. They also help save time and money, especially for clients who are retired and may only live off about $500 a month, according to APS. By providing clients with basic supplies, these elders can then use their money for more important things like food, shelter and medicine, which many of them need.

While caseworkers have been using the Silver Star rooms now more than ever, Hernandez predicts that during the winter, they'll use the rooms even more. She said neglect reports normally rise towards the end of the year.

"Because of the heating bill," Hernandez said. "Or, in the winter, it's, you know, a lot of family dynamics at play. You know, family, visiting family. And so, those reports kind of rise."

However, she and her team are ready to help those in need.

If you need to report a suspected case of abuse or neglect of people who are 65 or older or who have disabilities, call 800-458-9858.

You can call that number to report abuse that occurs in nursing homes, assisted living centers or day activity and health services. You can also report care concerns about home health and hospice agencies and intermediate care facilities. 

If you want to volunteer at a Silver Star Resource room, click here for more information.

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