Parrot May Be Star Witness In Shocking Elder Abuse Case

Elder abuse is something we hear about, but don’t talk about much. A story today out of South Carolina is a sad reminder of some of the difficult issues facing seniors.

Sixty year-old Gloria Clark was charged with abuse and neglect in respect of her 98 year-old mother, Anne Copeland, who died shortly after Emergency Services attended at their home.

When police arrived they discovered a filthy, noxious environment and the elderly Mrs. Copeman near death in her bed. In the house were seven dogs and several cats with feces and urine found throughout the home. The woman’s bedroom was cold and a window was open in an attempt to mask the smell of rotting flesh wounds.

Also present in the home was a parrot who chattered “help me, help me” and then laughed with great gusto. Officers advised the media they had never seen such a serious case of elder abuse and were confident the parrot would be their star witness.

How prevalent is elder abuse and what is being done about it? A recent Government of Canada survey conducted in Quebec revealed that between four and ten per cent of Canada’s senior population have suffered abuse or neglect, including untreated depression. Twelve per cent of Quebecers who responded to the survey indicated they had personally sought out information about elder abuse and 22% said they suspected elder abuse in their family situations.

Most elder abuse, however, is never discovered or investigated because of the vulnerability of the victims involved. Many seniors are unaware that abuse and neglect may be a criminal offence and if they are aware, they do not report it due to fear or shame. Another factor is the functional illiteracy of many Canadian seniors.

It is imperative that public education be implemented and abuse of elders by their offspring be treated like any other domestic violence case, with a zero tolerance policy. Social workers and others need to understand elder abuse is much more than a civil matter and serious criminal consequences are necessary to protect our mothers, fathers and grandparents.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


4 thoughts on “Parrot May Be Star Witness In Shocking Elder Abuse Case

  1. Georgialee:

    I was a member of the RCMP for 30 years. Because I was very good at handling high-risk situations, my superiors kept on sending into more of such situations. Heh…I once asked my Superintendent why he wanted me killed…advising him that one of these times the bullet was eventually going to make contact with me in a meaningful way…and then he’d have to find some other chump to do this stuff.

    But along that course, because I tended to be dealing with what some would consider the dregs of society, I encountered the most appalling cases of elder abuse and child abuse. Since the abuses did not, sadly, at least according to the Crowns involved, reach the threshold of provable criminal behaviour, I was forced to refer the matters to child protection officers and/or social workers.

    In each and every case, to my recollection, the abused family members were back within their former homes within about a week. Nothing meaningful was done by the so-called responsible authorities.

    It was very discouraging to someone like me, who actually gave a damn, but had no power to effect any meaningful change in the abused persons’ lives.

    1. Bruce Thank you for your personal and professional insight on this issue. It seems that children and seniors are frequently overlooked by our justice system. While social workers have their place, when abuse occurs it is the police who have the expertise to assess criminality. Regrettably, as you have described, these cases do not appear to receive the attention they should.

      Thank you for the commitment and compassion you and your colleagues bring to work with you every day.

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