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CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. -- The Cabarrus County Task Force to Prevent Abuse of Elderly and Disabled Persons held an awareness event at Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast Medical Center Wednesday. The purpose was to bring light to the millions of cases of elderly abuse in the country every year. Advocates believe for every report of abuse, five cases go unreported.

Laurie Abounader investigates abuse claims for the elderly and disabled. Money and a sense of entitlement are the biggest motives she says for elderly abuse. When asked who is most likely to abuse the elderly she says, Sadly, it is family members who are the most common abusers. Abounader then added that most families are not aware of that reality. Absolutely not. They don't know, Abounader said.

Anything sudden, like bruising, money missing, a change in the will out of the blue are all signs that need a second look. Fear of caregivers is often another sign of abuse.

One of the featured speakers was Diane Sandell, author of Ending Elder Abuse: a Family Guide.

Sandell's parents were married for 64 years until her father died. Shortly after, her mother developed senile dementia. Sandell did research and found a home she was comfortable with, but after three years her mother was severely beaten.

I walked into her room and I thought I'd be sick, Sandell said.

Encouraged by her best friend to take pictures as evidence, she was determined to move her mother out of the facility. She did, but six weeks later her mother died.

I started an advocacy program, Sandell said.

The horror of that event reshaped Sandell's life. She took seven months to finally meet with the nursing home's CEO. She then moved on to lobby Congress and even spent time with Barbra Bush in the White House.

Retired now, Sandell still makes time for speaking events in the hope of preventing another family from the pain of elder abuse. She has praise for the people who do it right. She herself is living in a nursing home and is enjoying every moment.

But for those who do the job well, oh my, they're fantastic. Sandell said.

In addition to speakers, attendees received information for resources available from nonprofit and commercial organizations that specialize in helping the aging population.
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