Wednesday, December 3, 2008

911 caller is suspected of elder abuse

Yesterday, police in Texas City, Texas were still searching for the person who made a 911 call that led to the discovery of a woman who was barely clinging to life.

Police said they are “very confident” the man who made the call was the woman’s son and confirmed he had lived in the house where the woman was found.

Linda Sue Sainz remained in a hospital on Tuesday, four days after police found her on the floor of her home. Police said her home was filthy, that she was malnourished and that maggots were feeding on open sores on her back.

Police were tipped through a 911 call late Friday night by a man claiming to be Sainz’s son. When officers arrived, they found Sainz alone in the house. Police are treating the case as one of neglect of a disabled person.

A state agency, Adult Protective Services, is conducting its own investigation.

Gwen Carter, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Adult Protective Services conducted 8,366 investigations of confirmed cases of abuse or neglect of either elderly or disabled people in the 12-county region that includes Galveston County last year. That’s a 55 percent increase from the 5,400 cases investigated in 1997.

Many cases could be prevented if friends, neighbors or family members paid closer attention. The most important thing is to constantly communicate with a neighbor, family member or friend who is elderly or disabled. Talking to that person or checking up on him goes a long way in preventing possible abuse or neglect.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to look out because when something happens, (the consequences are) horrible when it does,” she said.

Some of Sainz’s neighbors indicated they noticed unusual behavior or changes in lifestyle.

“She would just drive her car frequently, but then all the sudden she stopped driving it and I noticed her son was driving her car more often,” said neighbor Pascual Valdez. “I was assuming she moved away because we hadn’t heard from her in awhile.”

While not commenting on the Sainz case specifically, Carter said neighbors or friends who notice a change in behavior should check on the person. “There’s no harm done just to ask someone how he or she are doing,” she said. “If you do, you may just save a life.”

Carter said people should look out for signs of trouble. “If you see them and they are unkempt or unclean or if they have pets and they begin to accumulate lots of more pets, you should ask,” she said.

Not seeing a person for a long time is also an indicator something is wrong, Carter said. She also said cases of neglect are not necessarily criminal cases. Sometimes, a person just doesn’t have the means to care for the victim. (info from the Galveston Daily News)

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