An Oklahoma woman left to suffer in bed, living in filth and confused about what was happening.
One man is fighting an uphill battle with the state’s Adult Protective Services division of DHS after he says his mother was a victim of elder abuse.
To protect their privacy as the case moves through court, FOX23 will not be revealing the names of the family fighting to hold a man accountable for elder abuse.
Seven months ago, an elderly woman was admitted to a Tulsa area hospital. Both of her feet were black and her boyfriend told the woman’s son she had stubbed her toes. The woman had gangrene. Her son said his 75-year-old mother looked like she had been in bed for weeks on filthy sheets.
“I was upset to see my own mother with dried feces in her hair and matted. She hadn’t been bathed in close to three months,” he said.
The gangrene was irreversible and doctors had to amputate both of her feet.
The man says his mother’s live-in boyfriend was responsible for taking care of her and when he approached Adult Protective Services he said they seemed to agree with him.
“I was really relying on DHS and the system working to keep her ex-boyfriend away,” he said.
His faith in the system was tested very quickly. When he told them he planned to file a police report, he says DHS officials told him they would file a report and any report he filed on his own would just be redundant.
When he checked a few months later, the man says no report had been filed. He said, “the caseworker did her job bar none, kudos to her. I didn’t have a complaint with her. I know it wasn’t her fault.” However, he said, “once it left her desk, the bottom fell out.”
The man filed the police report and says things only got worse as the court case began. DHS missed court appointments, pointed the finger at the son’s financial history and fought a court order appointing the son as the guardian.
DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell told FOX23 over the phone that the agency did nothing wrong.
"This is normal procedure. This is Oklahoma state law, it is a way of protecting vulnerable adults from a way of exploitation. An Adult Protective Services investigator will determine what is happening in the case, they'll do their investigation, and then they'll turn their findings over to the District Attorney and police."
Wes Bledsoe started A Perfect Cause when his mother died after suffering abuse and neglect in a nursing home. Bledsoe says he has fought for years for change within Oklahoma’s Adult Protective Services.
“The disabled and the elderly are often forgotten. They're overlooked. They're pushed aside,” Bledsoe said.
After looking at the family’s case, Bledsoe says DHS’ intervention in the case was minimal and may have even obstructed court proceedings. The family’s attorney says so far no criminal charges have been filed in the case.
“Has DHS sprung forward and said that we're going to put our information on the table to help police and the district attorney's office hold this man accountable? The answer is absolutely not to my knowledge," the attorney said.
DHS cannot file charges, but their findings can be used to strengthen a criminal case, and Powell was adament it has followed the law.
"Each case is different. Obviously it depends upon the recomendations in the case and whether the District Attorney believes it's a prosecutable crime."
FOX23 checked online court records and we could not find any charges against the victim's boyfriend.
The family says any change at DHS will be too late for them, but they hope their case can help other Oklahoma families. If you suspect someone is the victim of elder abuse, call 911.