Last year, there were over 900 million people aged 60 years and older living on this planet. By the year 2050, that number is expected to more than double to approximately two billion.
The unfortunate truth is that around one in ten older individuals experience some form of elder abuse, and even then this number is likely to be an underestimation, as only one in twenty four cases are actually reported (World Health Organization, 2015 link: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs357/en/). What’s even more frightening is that it is believed that this critical public health problem is only going to worsen.
How Common Is Elder Abuse?
Rigorous data surrounding the prevalence of elder abuse today is fairly limited, but a study produced by the World Health Organization revealed that the following types of abuse were the most common amongst high to middle income countries:
- Financial Abuse: 1.0 to 9.2%
- Psychological Abuse: 0.7 to 6.3% (this was based on substantive threshold criteria)
- Neglect: 0.2 to 5.5%
- Physical Abuse: 0.2 to 4.9%
- Sexual Abuse: 0.004-0.82%
Where Is Elder Abuse Happening?
Elder abuse can occur in both a domestic and an institutional setting. This ranges from their own home, the homes of family or friends, and even in nursing homes and other elder care facilities.
Domestic Elder Abuse Statistics
The amount of credible information regarding domestic elder abuse is scarce, but as with all cases, it is believed to be vastly under-reported. A recent Canadian study related to family violence found that:
- 7% of older people had suffered some form of emotional abuse
- 1% of older people had suffered from financial abuse
- 1% of older people suffered physical abuse or sexual assault
These acts were carried out by children, caregivers or partners during the previous five years. Men (9%) were also more likely than women (6%) to suffer from emotional or financial abuse (World Health Organization, 2015 link: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs357/en/), although younger seniors and senior women were at a greater risk of family violence victimization (Statistics Canada, 2013 link: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2014001/article/14114-eng.pdf).
Institutional Elder Abuse Statistics
It is estimated that the current rate of using a nursing home in the United States is 4%, and that number is expected to increase as our population ages. A recent survey of nursing-home staff in our country (via World Health Organization, 2015 link:http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs357/en/) has revealed some very frightening statistics about how our older family members are being treated:
- 36% of nursing home staff witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse towards an elderly patient
- 10% of nursing home staff committed at least one act of physical abuse towards an older individual
- 40% of nursing home staff admitted to abusing their patients
The Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES) also revealed that only 1% of older adults who are independent and healthy are malnourished. However 16% of those living in a community dwelling and are older than 65 consume less than 1,000 calories each day. It is believed that anywhere from 23% to 60% of institutionalized older adults are malnourished (link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396084/).
Perhaps the most frightening statistic of all is that abused or neglected older individuals have a 200% increased risk of early death (Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, “Health and Abuse,” 2004).
General Signs of Abuse and Neglect
There are two major signs which may indicate that your older loved one is being abused:
a) There are frequent arguments and/or tension between the older individual and his or her caregiver; and/or
b) There is a notable change in the older individual’s personality, behavior, finances or physical condition.
Questions to Ask an Older Adult
Discussing abuse can be uncomfortable for both yourself and the older individual, but remember that if your loved one is being abused, it is causing them great harm. Remember also that the abuse unlikely to go away without help. You can approach the topic by asking:
- Do you feel safe?
- Is there anyone in your life who is making you feel uncomfortable or who is hurting you?
- What do you want to do?
- How can I help?
When asking questions about a specific event, avoid judgmental language and stick to the facts. For example, say that you saw a caregiver “take” cash from your loved one’s wallet rather than stating that you saw the caregiver “steal” money, and ask if they had permission.
How You Can Help Prevent Elder Abuse and Neglect
The Dwyer Williams Dretke Attorneys, PC law group is devoted to protecting those who are most vulnerable from any form of abuse and neglect. You can begin to prevent elder abuse by:
- Closely listening to seniors and their caregivers
- Intervening if you suspect elder abuse
- Educating others about what elder abuse is, how to recognize it and how to report it
Remember, it is not your responsibility to prove abuse is happening, but it is your duty to report it if you suspect it. If you believe that your loved one is in immediate, life threatening danger, call 911 or the local authorities. If you suspect a loved one is being abused, you can contact the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for further guidance.
In either situation, it is important to contact a personal injury lawyer such as ours at Dwyer Williams Dretke Attorneys, PC – we are well versed in cases of elder abuse and neglect.
Our senior advocates are committed to upholding the rights of our elders and offer free consultations to anyone who has been victimized. We welcome your call at (541) 617-0555.