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Elder Abuse: The Terrible Toll of Neglect

Photo: krcrtv.com

When a case of elder abuse makes the news headlines, we are often shocked at the cruelty of actions inflicted on one of our senior citizens, oftentimes by members of their own family. Abuse against elders takes many forms, and among them neglect is the most horrific, amounting to denial of a person's very existence and treating them as if they were already dead.

According to allegations of local authorities, severe neglect was the reason 90-year-old Dorothy Havens died on May 15th. Havens, a resident of Redding, CA, had been under the "care" of her daughter Kathryn Jena Havens, 56, and grandaughter Amanda Havens, 33. Dorothy was discovered by police officers the previous night after a report of possible elder abuse, while both her daughter and granddaughter were placed under arrest.

Unfortunately for Dorothy Havens, help came too late. She died that morning at the hospital, unable to recover from the abuse she had endured for so long. Investigators say that Dorothy had been in her bed since November 2014, and that she was suffering from bed sores, was covered with feces, and had wounds with fly larvae coming out of them. With authorities set to perform their autopsy this week, additional charges may be brought against Kathryn and Amanda Havens.

While any of us would have difficulty even contemplating Dorothy's suffering, her case is sadly far from unusual in California. Elder abuse and neglect are becoming ever more common crimes committed against our citizens in our state. There are various motives for wrondgoing, but the results are always the same - irreparable physcial and emotional trauma or loss of life. 

One comment in particular about Dorothy from neighbors stays with us - they "thought she had passed a couple years ago." Elderly victims are left for dead for by their abusers, and no one notices for years. Dorothy Haven could easily be one of our own loved ones. The simple truth is that elder abuse requires a community solution - that neighbors look out for each other and report potential cases of this grave crime. We can do better to protect our seniors.

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