Advocates seek to protect Frederick County’s seniors -- Gazette.Net


Theresa Hiegel of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office Victims Services Unit has received reports of senior citizens wandering through neighborhoods.

And she has worked with concerned neighbors and relatives when senior citizens lose thousands of dollars in scams.

"I felt [elder abuse] was an issue the community needed to be more aware of," she said.

Partnering up with the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together Council of Frederick County, the Silver Ribbon Series is set to take place from 10 to 11 a.m. beginning Monday. The program will continue through June 15 at the Department of Aging.

"Elder abuse often goes unreported," she said. "By offering this training series, it is my hope community members can help be advocates for seniors by preventing and/or reporting elder abuse. ... Having an aware community can help us prevent abuse from occurring."

Each day will feature a different speaker discussing various topics to raise awareness about elder abuse.

Suzanne Sherwood, a registered nurse and professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, will be giving a presentation on June 14.

She plans to discuss how to recognize physical signs of abuse, trauma and neglect. She will give variables that complicate identification, factors of elders at risk for abuse, common traits of an abuser and assessment cues to use if mistreatment is suspected.

"Those over 85 years old are the fastest growing segment of this population and are the most vulnerable to abuse and neglect," Sherwood said. "There are now over 2 million older Americans that experience abuse and neglect each year and this number is rising. Awareness will help to put an end to elder mistreatment."

Years ago, a relative for attorney David Wingate fell ill and needed help.

"We knew he could not make important decisions for himself and was very vulnerable," he said. "It was during this whole process of advocating for him that I realized I wanted to pursue this type of legal work."

Wingate will speak June 12 on how to protect seniors' homes and assets, appoint a trusted family or friend as a power of attorney and help when a loved one is deemed incompetent.

"Don't wait for a crisis to happen before you plan," Wingate said. "Be prepared."

Hiegel encourages anyone with a vested interest in the elderly such as seniors, caretakers, family members of seniors, health care professionals and clergy members to attend.

"This event is aimed at raising awareness," Hiegel said. "The goal of the training series is to make more people aware that elder abuse encompasses physical abuse, sexual abuse, thefts, financial explorations, and neglect."

The is the first time the series has been staged.

"My hope is if the training series is successful I can look at making it an annual event," Hiegel said.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Call Hiegel at 301-600-1290 or email at