MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Victory for a Mobile County woman who led the charge to create an “elder abuse registry” in the state of Alabama.
“Shirley’s Law” requires the state to keep a database of people convicted of abusing vulnerable adults so nursing homes and families can check a caregiver’s background. “Shirley’s Law” was created after Shirley Smith, who was financially exploited in 2017.
Smith’s daughter Jo Holcombe said her mother will always be remembered as a lovely lady.
“She was the gentle southern lady of the 1960s who matched her hat, gloves and shoes,” said Holcombe. “She had a lot of physical struggles in her life and endured a lot of pain.”
Pain is one of the many words to describe what Smith went through in her last few months on earth.
Smith’s caregiver Veronica Wiggerfall wrote countless fake checks and forged Smith’s signatures, stealing thousands of dollars. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, Wiggerfall was convicted of financial exploitation of the elderly.
“Mother was financially exploited in October of 2017,” said Holcombe. “Throughout this entire process, we have worked to bring the person who did that to trial, because it fundamentally changed my mother in her ability to trust other caregivers, and feel safe and at peace in her own home.”
This pushed Smith’s daughter to create “Shirley’s Law” in honor of her mother. It’s an Adult Abuse Registry that will track those who are convicted of elder abuse.
Governor Kay Ivey signed this law into effect this year, making Alabama the first state in the country to pass a bill such as this one.
“It was needed, and it’s not anywhere,” said Holcombe. “The crime of elder abuse has become so rapid. It’s continuing to increase. As our population ages, it’s going to get more and more prevalent, and someone had to stop it.”
Homcombe hopes “Shirley’s Law” can one day protect the elderly across the nation.