CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes calls elder abuse a growing problem in the county.
Last year, Chief Rhodes says there were 81 cases of elder abuse in the county. HCPD Detective Suzanne Demarest investigated every single one of those cases.
“There’s been a few case that I’ve went to and I’ve cried,” said Demarest. “I just don’t tolerate people that abuse the elderly or children period.”
Horry County is a retirement area and the baby boomers are getting older. Demarest says a lot of them move down here and either they get to the point where they can’t take care of themselves or they’re easily taken advantage of by others.
Demarest told News 13 she’ll never forget her first elder abuse case. She responded to a home in Myrtle Beach and found trash and feces all over the floor. However, the most disturbing discovery was an elderly couple locked in the back room.
“She was completely emancipated, she had two broken hips and her husband was laying in the bed next to her,” she described.
The couple was placed in emergency protective custody and taken to Grand Strand Medical Center to be evaluated.
Demarest charged four family members with abuse of a vulnerable adult and exploitation of a vulnerable adult .The fifth family member was charged with failure to report.
“It just really hit home,” said Demarest. “I have parents and I would not let anybody take advantage of my parent. My parents took care of me and I’ll take care of them.”
She says elder abuse cases take twice as long as regular cases to prosecute because the victims often suffer from mental illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s, or they’re just afraid.
“They’d rather get taken advantage of then live by themselves,” she explained.
To put a solid case together, Demarest says she often has to dig through bank records, medical records and wills. The investigation can take months, but she says its her passion.
“Without us, they don’t have a voice,” she stated.
Even after an arrest is made, Demarest says she’ll do follow up visits to make sure the victims are receiving quality care. She’s also organized four clean-ups for elderly homes found in poor condition. If you’d like to volunteer call 843-915-8077.