State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis speaks at the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event at the state Capitol. (Photo courtesy of the state Supreme Court)

Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants speaks at the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event at the state Capitol. (Photo by Kyla Asbury)

CHARLESTON -- The first commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was held June 15 at the Capitol Rotunda in Charleston.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis was the keynote speaker at the event.

Davis said the event was held to help bring awareness to elder abuse.

"This day was set aside to bring awareness to elder abuse and neglect," Davis said. "Each year the chief justice chooses a 'theme' for the court for that year and in 2010, the court is focusing on West Virginia's elderly population."

Davis said elder care is a very personal topic to her because of her father, who was recently placed in a nursing home after suffering a stroke.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is commemorated nationally to focus attention on the life, well-being and dignity of older adults.

Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants said elder abuse and neglect are largely under-reported crimes.

"We need to keep our eyes open and watch for the signs of elder abuse," Plants said. "If you notice something is different, please report it because that person might not be able to do it for themselves."

Plants stressed that it is important for everyone to work together and make others aware of the dynamics of elder abuse and neglect.

Elder abuse and neglect can take many forms, including financial, physical, psychological, emotional or sexual, Plants said.

Davis said the state has taken steps to access and improve elder laws and to help prevent abuse.

"Caregiver stress is no excuse for elder abuse," Davis said. "Just as it isn't an excuse in child neglect or any other area."

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Patsy A. Hardy said she was pleased and honored to attend the event.

"This means a great deal to me," she said. "It's truly a privilege to be here."

Hardy read Gov. Joe Manchin's proclamation that declared June 15 to be West Virginia's Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The state Supreme Court Administrative Office, Auditor's Office, Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau of Senior Services, the AARP Foundation, Legal Aid of West Virginia and Kanawha Valley Senior Services organized and sponsored the event.

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