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AARP to Begin Elder Abuse Education Campaign

Most cases of elder abuse go unreported in South Dakota, and senior advocates are working with new laws to help change that. (iStockphoto)
Most cases of elder abuse go unreported in South Dakota, and senior advocates are working with new laws to help change that. (iStockphoto)
March 16, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. - Advocates for seniors are working to get the word out that Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed into law new protections for victims of elder abuse.

The state has adopted several recommendations from the Elder Abuse Task Force, including criminalizing emotional abuse against South Dakota's oldest residents. Erik Nelson, associate state director of advocacy for AARP South Dakota, said his group now will be working on an education campaign to help seniors better understand their new protections.

"Throughout the rest of 2016," he said, "we will be conducting outreach and awareness to health professionals, law enforcement, family caregivers and victims and the general public about how the Elder Abuse Task Force bill is going to impact them in a good way."

According to South Dakota's Department of Social Services, more than 600 Adult Protective Services calls are made annually. However, the task force found that, nationally, only one in 14 cases of elder abuse ever is reported.

Nelson said the new protections will help the state track these cases better by providing new ways for victims and family members to report abuse.

"Elder abuse is a serious concern today in our state," he said, "but as our state population continues to age, it will continue to be a growing concern in the future."

Based on the task force recommendations, the Legislature also has approved new funding for the South Dakota attorney general's office to add a prosecutor and an investigator to look into elder-abuse cases. In a statement, Attorney General Marty Jackley praised the moves, saying his office also will be working with local law-enforcement agencies to investigate cases of elder abuse.

The Elder Abuse Task Force report is online at eldersandcourts.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD