Elder Abuse and Neglect is Rampant – A Quiet National Tragedy

Senior coupleElder abuse and neglect is a dangerous and tragic problem that affects a significant number of older adults. Incidence of abuse occur wherever a senior may live, be it at-home, a senior living community, in a nursing home or elsewhere. The consequences are grievous as it as much a threat to an individual’s health and well-being in the latter stages of their life as chronic disease, cognitive impairment and economic security.

1 in 13 seniors have been victims of at least one form of elder abuse according to a study prepared by Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc., Weill Cornell Medical Center of Cornell University and the New York City Department for the Aging; “Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study”

Incidence of nursing home abuse is startling. A study of nursing home residents highlighted in a research brief from the National Center on Elder Abuse indicates that 44% of resident’s report being abused while 95% report being neglected or seeing others neglected.

People living with dementia are at greater risk of elder abuse than those without. Approximately 5.1 million American elders over 65 have some kind of dementia and that is expected to grow to 7.7 million people by 2030. Close to half of all people over 85, the fastest growing segment of our population, have Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia.

Dementia sufferers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of impairments in memory, communication abilities, and judgment. Prevalence estimates are influenced, and possibly underestimated, by the fact that many people with dementia are unable, frightened, or embarrassed to report abuse. Additionally, several studies have confirmed that as dementia progresses, so does the risk of all types of abuse.

A study, “Screening for Abuse and Neglect of People with Dementia”, presented in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that 47% of participants with dementia had been mistreated by their caregivers. Of them, 88.5% experienced psychological abuse, 19.7% experienced physical abuse, and 29.5% experienced neglect.

Types of Abuse

There are many types of abuse:

  • Physical abuse happens when someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing, or slapping.
  • Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older person. Keeping that person from seeing close friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.
  • Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older person’s needs.
  • Abandonment is leaving a senior alone without planning for his or her care.
  • Sexual abuse involves a caregiver forcing an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.
  • Financial Abuse happens when money, other assets or belongings are stolen.

If you suspect elder abuse and suspect someone is in immediate danger call 911, or the local police for immediate help.

If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell someone. To report elder abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services agency in the state where the elder resides.

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