MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Thursday was a historic day for the state as Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law an elder abuse registry.
This is “Shirley’s Law,” named after Shirley Holcombe, a victim of elder abuse.
The law creates a registry for nursing homes and other elder care agencies to check if a person has been convicted of elder abuse.
Shirley Holcombe’s daughter Jo Holcombe says it’s been an emotional process.
“I have cried when it passed the House and the Senate. And I cried today,” said Jo Holcombe.
In October 2017, she discovered her mother’s caretaker was forging checks.
“What that woman truly stole from my mother was her peace of mind and safety in her own home for the last seven months of her life,” said Holcombe. “And I can never forgive her for that.”
After her mother died in 2018, Jo Holcombe brought the idea for an elder abuse registry to Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile.
“They consider hiring someone, they’ll be able to check and see if the person has ever been convicted of elder abuse,” said Gaston.
“It will also provide information about people who have had elder abuse protection orders that have been issued,” said Sam Smith, the director of Adult Protective Services with the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
According to DHR, elder abuse is on the rise. In 2021 there were 11,122 reports of abuse. This includes physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
“We need to have a place where all of the information can be stored in one location,” said Smith. “So that nobody slips through the cracks.”
“Think about the damage one person could do with multiple people,” said Jo Holcombe. “And that’s just not acceptable.”
While the Holcombes wait to get justice for Shirley, the fight isn’t over for Jo.
“It needs to be a national law,” she said.
She plans to take “Shirley’s Law” to Washington, D.C. so people around the country can be protected.
If you or an elder you know has been abused, neglected or exploited you can call the DHR hotline at 1-800-458-7214.
Editor’s note: In this story published on March 24, WSFA 12 News incorrectly reported that Alabama had the first elder abuse registry in the nation.
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