Memphian Terica Lamb began to suspect her 72-year-old father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, might be a victim of elder abuse when she visited him at the new assisted living facility she'd checked him into. He was losing weight and his mobility.
"About two to three weeks after he got there, his health declined significantly. He was walking when he got there, and in a matter of weeks, he was totally bed-ridden," Lamb said.
Lamb tried to report the situation to police after she removed her father from the facility, but she was told they couldn't make a report on a civil matter. Adult Protective Services told her they could take a report, but, because she'd already removed her father, they couldn't do much else since he was no longer in danger.
"One in 23 cases [of elder abuse] goes unreported," said Mike Carpenter, executive director of the Memphis-based Plough Foundation, which is hoping to provide the financial backing to tackle issues of elder abuse and other issues aimed at helping seniors age comfortably and safely.
The Plough Foundation, which typically issues grants on a reactionary basis, is getting a little more proactive. Through its new aging initiative, the foundation recently issued its first-ever request for proposals (RFP) seeking nonprofits to take on issues of elder abuse and elder care.
"There's a lack of communication between the various agencies [that deal with elder abuse], and coordination between police and Adult Protective Services is not there like it should be. And there are only certain cases that adult protective services will take," Carpenter said.
Plough has hired a consultant to pull together stakeholders that deal with elder abuse issues, and they're hoping to find some solutions they can put funding behind.
Additionally, the aging initiative RFP is seeking nonprofits that can deal with other issues related to aging, such as food security and housing needs. Baby boomers across the country have been hitting the senior mark for a few years now, and Plough is hoping to help as Memphis' senior population rises.
"Memphis is no different from anywhere else. You hear about the Silver Tsunami or the Age Wave. We are getting older, and this community will look very different in 20 years than it does today," said Katie Midgley, Plough's director of research and evaluation. "Have we really figured out how to meet the needs and capitalize on the assets of seniors? We could do a better job."
A Plough Foundation telephone survey of Memphis seniors in 2012 revealed that Memphis' population of seniors living in poverty (12 percent) is higher than the national average of 8.9 percent.
Carpenter said the aging initiative grants could also go toward funding a program to fix up homes for the elderly. Twenty percent of the seniors who responded to the telephone survey said their home was in need of major repairs that would improve their ability to live there five years from now.
"Nobody wants to go to a nursing home. They want to stay in their homes, but we have a lot of poor housing stock. If your roof is leaking, nothing else matters because that will destroy the entire structure," Carpenter said. "How do we help people to stay in their homes longer, which is better for them from a health standpoint mentally, physically, and emotionally?"
The RFP deadline for letters of interest from nonprofits is June 15th, and Carpenter said the Plough Foundation's board will take a year to vet the proposals before committing to funding them.