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Elder Abuse is Everyone’s Business

Hilda Taylor and APS worker Shauna WellsWhen people reach their “golden years,” one of the last things they want to worry about is whether or not they can keep a roof over their heads. But after a couple of Texas-sized gulley washers, that’s exactly the dilemma Hilda Taylor of Comanche faced.

“We had this incredible rain, it was like the Mississippi River was running through here,” says Taylor, age 71.

Taylor says one rain created a leak in the roof that rotted out the floor of one bathroom and the sink and commode sunk into the foundation. Another deluge created a leak in the main living area causing the ceiling to cave in. It also left a hole where mice, rats, and cats entered the house.

Taylor, who has been on her own since 2002 when her husband succumbed to heart problems, does not have the resources to maintain her house. “I am living on half of the money I had when my husband was alive,” she says. “But the bills are the same. Home repair and remodeling costs more, and since I am older there are fewer things that I can do myself. I have children, but they live in Germany. There are neighbors who are willing to help but they don’t always have the time.”

May is Elder Abuse Prevention Month and Adult Protective Services (APS) is reminding Texans that stopping elder abuse and neglect is truly everyone’s responsibility.  This marks the third year of APS’ It’s Everyone’s Business campaign. It’s a statewide effort to educate Texans about the pervasive problem of abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and adults with disabilities, and to encourage citizens to get involved in making a positive difference.

An Adult Abuse Prevention Kit, containing 31-pages of resources in English and Spanish, is being distributed to hospitals, faith-based organizations, libraries, home health agencies, senior centers, Area Agencies on Aging, and other partners. The kit and other resources are available online at www.everyonesbusiness.org

Since Taylor’s husband was in the service, Taylor first approached the Veterans Administration but staff there said it would take time for benefits to come through. “When I was younger, I never thought stuff like this would happen to me. I’d look at people less fortunate and wonder how they let themselves go like that. Now it’s me. I didn’t end up this way on purpose.”

Staff at the Veteran’s Administration contacted Adult Protective Services and the case was assigned to Shauna Wells, a caseworker in Brownwood. Wells worked with a local roofer and tapped an emergency fund to supplement money from Taylor’s insurance company. Wells also helped Taylor apply for a rural development loan from the United States Department of Agriculture to fix the rest of the house.

“Shauna is a guardian angel,” says Taylor. “I never met any official who was as warm and helpful. I thought that was a friend helping me, I didn’t pay any attention that it was someone working for the government.”

If you believe an elderly person is being abused, neglected or exploited, report it by calling 1-800-252-5400.

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