Elder Abuse A Pervasive, Underreported Problem

by | Jun 14, 2016 | Health Featured


The late Brooke Astor has made headlines for being the country’s most famous victim of financial elder abuse. Her son, Anthony Marshall, stole tens of millions of dollars from her $200 million fortune and was convicted in 2009. Most cases of elder abuse do not gain so much attention but the elderly population is growing and often faces neglect and financial, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of family members and caregivers. Click here for more information on elder abuse.

Elderly population is expanding

There are now more than 40 million Americans over the age of 65 and the elderly are expected to constitute 20% of the U.S. population by the year 2050. Decline in health and mental faculties make older Americans a frequent target of abuse, but sadly it is believed only one out of every 14 cases is ever reported.

Researchers believe that a number of factors prevent seniors from reporting abuse. Topping the list is a fear of causing trouble for the perpetrator, who is all too often a family member. Other reasons include personal fear, embarrassment, or the victim’s impaired faculties.

Elderly face abuse in nursing homes

Nearly 1.5 million Americans live in nursing homes. These facilities are trusted with the care of vulnerable people who face physical or mental challenges. Abuse and neglect in these situations can not only have a physical effect, but can also take a profound emotional toll on residents and their family members.

The Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) tracks and attempts to eliminate nursing home abuse. More than 15,000 nursing homes across the country provided services through Medicare and Medicaid in 2012 but less than 10% of the facilities were found to be deficiency free.

Complicating matters, in late 2008, CMS adopted a 5-star rating for nursing homes similar to what consumers are accustomed to seeing when searching for a hotel or restaurant. However the nursing home star ratings are based largely on self-reported data and they omit reports of state safety violations. The ratings may therefore lull caring relatives into a false sense of security when searching for a safe extended care facility.

There is no single type of elder abuse

There are many examples of people abusing a position of trust to take advantage a senior. Some examples of elder abuse include:

  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, including nursing home abuse or domestic abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect or abandonment

Unfortunately, experts believe that family members or other loved ones may overlook signs of abuse, mistaking them for signs of impaired faculties. If a loved one is in long-term care or in a situation where he or she spends a lot of time with a caregiver, some warning signs to watch for include:

  • Unexplained injuries, including bedsores, pressure wounds, or signs of falls
  • Dehydration
  • Change in appearance or hygiene
  • Withdrawal from activities
  • Sudden inability to pay bills

When a caregiver or other trusted individual has taken advantage of a senior, they may face criminal and civil penalties. In some cases, both state and federal laws are implicated.

Author Name: Dawn Snyder


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