How to help when a disabled adult is being abused

How to help when a disabled adult is being abused

Posted:
A 48-year-old bedridden woman had to be cut out of her Newport home this week. (source: Cocke County Sheriff's Office) A 48-year-old bedridden woman had to be cut out of her Newport home this week. (source: Cocke County Sheriff's Office)
Gail Gann, the victim's mother was arrested Wednesday and charged with gross neglect of an impaired adult. (source: Cocke County Sheriff's Office) Gail Gann, the victim's mother was arrested Wednesday and charged with gross neglect of an impaired adult. (source: Cocke County Sheriff's Office)
"I'm absolutely horrified. It's devastating to know people aren't taking care of their family members," said Peninsula Behavioral Health psychiatrist Dr. John Kupfner. "I'm absolutely horrified. It's devastating to know people aren't taking care of their family members," said Peninsula Behavioral Health psychiatrist Dr. John Kupfner.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - 6 News viewers were shocked and outraged by a story we brought you Wednesday. A 48-year-old bedridden woman had to be cut out of her Newport home this week.

Authorities say the place was filled with garbage and feces. The woman, who was mentally and physically disabled from a car wreck, told her rescuers she hadn't left her bed in three years.

The woman's mother, Gail Gann, 71, was arrested Wednesday and charged with gross neglect of an impaired adult. She bonded out of jail that same day.

Once the victim was rescued, she was immediately taken to Newport Medical Center. A police report says she was covered in bed sores. She was transferred to another facility Wednesday for treatment and her case is now being managed by adult protective services.

"I'm absolutely horrified. It's devastating to know people aren't taking care of their family members," said Peninsula Behavioral Health psychiatrist Dr. John Kupfner.

He said abuse of disabled adults happens more often than we want to believe.

"People don't know what to do if they suspect something's going on with a family member. They're afraid of causing trouble or causing family strife. I think it's really much more dangerous than even child abuse cases where the community really rallies," he said.

He said instead of being afraid, take action.

"The first thing you have to do is forget it's an adult. Pretend in your own mind it's a kid. Because what would you do if it was a kid being abused? You wouldn't care if it was a family member that was involved or a neighbor. Pretend it's a child and get them some help. Or you can call police to do a safety check. They'll probably do it anonymously," Dr. Kupfner said.

That's exactly what happened in this case. An anonymous tip led to this woman's rescue. Investigators believe her mother, who was supposed to be her caregiver, may have some mental health issues.

"It starts usually with caregiver burnout. Taking care of an adult needy person, people get really frustrated and burned out having to commit to a lifetime of being a caregiver," Dr. Kupfner said.

However, there is help out there. He said start by asking the disabled person's doctor. 

"I would say I'm overwhelmed and I don't know if I'm able to fully take care of her. You have an honest conversation," Dr. Kupfner said.

The Cocke County sheriff says the victim was receiving disability checks from the state. They're now investigating who was spending that money and how.

If you suspect abuse or need help caring for a disabled adult, you can call the state's Adult Protective Services hotline 1-888-277-8366.

We did reach out to them for an update on the victim's condition, but have not heard back.

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