AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Adult Protective Services is working to raise awareness about adult and elder abuse, in an order to prevent more cases in the Panhandle region.

APS Supervisor Susan Hammett said clients are people 65 and older who are in a state of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, or those 18 and older with special needs or a qualifying disability.

“Most of the calls that we get in our area of for self-neglect. And years ago, I had a client tell me, ‘I never thought that I would outlive my family, my friends, or my finances,'” said Hammett. “And we often see that happen with our elderly, as you know, the cost of everything’s going up.”

MyHighPlains.com was invited on a client visit with APS on Thursday to meet Jane Smith, an 85-year-old who lives alone.

“My income is only $454 a month and that’s my social security because I didn’t work very much in my life. I did have my grandson living with me and he also gave me money towards the bills, utilities and things just went wrong,” Smith said. “He moved out. He found a girlfriend that he liked so he moved in with her and left me just right when the prices of everything’s going up.”

Smith said she is still waiting on funds after the death of her husband because of paperwork issues.

“If I could just get my checks from civil service and also the Veterans Affairs you know, I wouldn’t have to have charity but right now I had to have help,” she said. “I could not buy my prescriptions if I paid my utilities. I got right over here. I got about three empty bottles already because I don’t have the money to have them filled.”

Julie Thomas, Smith’s caseworker said being proactive will help to prevent many adult abuse cases. She said if anyone has suspicions about a person in need of help, they should call APS so they can check on the client.

“A lot of times, they’ll open up to us more than they will a family member or friend because we’re kind of a neutral third party,” said Thomas. “They don’t always want to talk to those family members, or maybe they’re embarrassed to reach out for help.”

Hammett said APS workers have to be flexible and open to change when helping clients, especially because they field calls from the public.

“Someone may call in and tell us that they’re concerned about a person who lives down the street from them, or the police department will call us and tell us that there is a client who’s maybe walking down I-40, who doesn’t know who they are or where they belong, and we will have to intervene,” Hammett said. “So, the priorities change all day long due to that.”

She continued, “The most needy, most serious situation is the one that we’re going to prioritize, and then maybe have to push something back a little bit.”

Hammett said they make police reports when they suspect criminal activity. They also make referrals as needed.

“So a physical abuse or sexual abuse case would be a high priority, someone who’s in a very severe state of neglect would also be a high priority,” she said. “Someone who’s in a very severe state of neglect would also be a high priority. Maybe that person has no heat, and the temperature outside is very cold, or maybe there without life-sustaining medications”

Hammett also encouraged people to be proactive in preventing adult abuse and she emphasized that families need to plan ahead.

“The biggest thing that would help us is to look out for your neighbor, your family member, and try to sort of ward off some of the abuses and neglect that can take place,” said Hammett. “Families need to get together and talk about having powers of attorney, making wills out, having our elderly clients know that they can trust the person that they are giving a power of attorney to or asking for help from.”

Thomas said APS is different from Child Protective Services because their clients are adults who want to stay at home as long as they safely can.

“CPS can go in and take these children out of the home, under the right circumstances. We can’t do that if they are over 18. They are adults, and they are capable of making their own decisions,” said Thomas.

“You know, and there have been a lot of times where we have gone into a home and it hasn’t been safe and we have tried everything we could to make them safe and it doesn’t always work out,” she continued. “But most of the time, you know, if I walk into a house and it’s not safe, I will probably call EMS to see if we can get them to the hospital for an evaluation. You know, the appropriate medical care, we can work with them to get them into nursing homes.”

She said they also work with families in those cases, and that’s where the power of attorney comes in.

“They can step up, if necessary, and make some of these decisions for that person in the case that they are no longer able to make their own decisions,” said Thomas.

With help from Thomas, Smith said she has been able to get food and groceries through Meals on Wheels, and they are working to sort out her paperwork so she can receive the funds she needs.

“I am down to the bottom of the barrel,” said Smith. “But with her help, she gets me out of that mood and makes me feel better towards myself. So I can’t say enough good things about her. She’s been too wonderful for me and I think God blessed me when he sent me her.”

Click here to learn how to report adult abuse to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.