EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Texas Adult Protective Services is hosting its 14th annual Crimes Against the Elderly Conference Wednesday. It's focused on protecting seniors from neglect and crimes focused on their age. It comes in the first week of Elder Abuse Awareness Month. The conference is open to walk-ins, and is being held at the El Paso Community College Administrative Services Center in East El Paso.
While the conference is covering multiple topics, one major concern for seniors living alone is neglect.
The National Health Institute says that people left alone are at higher risk for depression, anxiety and abuse. Neglect can be a serious concern, as many older folks may have limited options for getting help. While neglect can be willful -- it can also be due to caretakers not paying enough attention.
Texas Adult Protective Services says it's a good idea to regularly check in with older friends and family -- especially if they live alone. Neurological problems and isolation can lead to seniors being targeted for crime and abuse. Elders are particularly targets for scams.
Grace Ortiz, APS Community Engagement Specialist, says that the conference is about education. Speakers are covering topics like abuse, holistic wellbeing for seniors and cognitive decline.
Another challenge is for caretakers, as older adults' mental abilities decline. Breakdown in communication can lead to unintentional forms of neglect. The Alzheimer's Association says seniors with dementia have mood swings, which could lead to further isolation. They say it's important to look beyond the words a loved one says, and see what needs are causing that response.
Ortiz says her office is focused on trying to help seniors stay autonomous, and to live confidently in their own homes. APS can help seniors find support for things like plumbers, repairmen, air conditioners and other necessary services. Ortiz says many elderly women are afraid to call for help with household issues, afraid they'll be overcharged for services -- due to their age.
In the El Paso area alone, there are over 130,000 people over 65, which indicates many residents are in danger of isolation. National health agencies agree that talking to people, joining clubs and getting out of the house are great ways to protect senior's mental health.
Avery Martinez is the Be Mindful Reporter for ABC-7, supported in part by Report for America. RFA helps provide reporters for under-covered topics across the country.