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"They have nowhere to turn" - How one Tallahassee couple is helping victims of elder abuse

Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-05 17:58:17-05
  • Area pastors are opening a first of it's kind home for victims of elder abuse in their neighborhood.
  • Experts with the FSU College of Law say the issue is one often unreported.
  • Watch the video above to hear why one woman was inspired to care for seniors.


An area couple is working to help our elderly neighbors face a problem not often talked about.

The team at Heaven Sent Elderly Care Services are taking resources from our neighborhood across town to open a care facility for people facing elder abuse.

It's a problem that often goes unreported in the Capitol City and nationwide.

Pastor and elder care provider Freda Harris-Barber said her grandmother is her inspiration.

"My mom was a single mother, so I spent a lot of time at her house, so I spent a lot of time with her and I just had a passion for seniors from her," Harris-Barber said.

That's why she opened Heaven Sent Elderly Care Services, an at-home care facility for seniors in the Big Bend.

She said there is one problem she has noticed among her patients.

"While in the home, we just experience a lot of abuse among our seniors," Harris-Barber said. "That just made it get to the point where we wanted to expand our services to a home that catered toward seniors."

Her and her husband Louis are opening a home to provide shelter and counseling to low-income seniors facing elder abuse.

It's an issue experts with the Department of Justice say one in ten people over 65 face.

To get a better perspective of what seniors are facing, I spoke with FSU Law professor Rita Nathan.

She's the director of the FSU Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic.

They work with low-income seniors to provide help with bills, benefits, housing and care, including aiding victims of elder abuse.

She said elder abuse comes in many forms, with one of the biggest being financial abuse, that can cause further harm.

"For victims of get scammed, whether it's by a stranger on the internet or by a family member, you're three times more likely to pass away early just due to the stress of that experience," Nathan said.

She said victims often do not report the abuse because it is someone close to them that they rely on for care.

"A lot of the elder abuse we do see in Florida and across the nation a lot of times is perpetrated by a family member," Nathan said.

Something Harris-Barber said she has seen first hand.

"I have experienced a lot of that," Harris-Barber said. "I have had seniors that have had their family members not pay their bills."

That's why she's opening the home.

"Just give them a safe place where they can feel at home and feel like they have can trust someone and begin the healing process," Harris-Barber said.

Something she said is important to do for this community.

"After all they have given to their families and their communities, they ought to be able to keep their dignity," Harris-Barber said.

If you or someone you know is facing elder abuse, you can call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.

You can report abuse online on the Florida Department of Children and Families website.