According to the United States 2010 Census, the United States reached a record-breaking number and proportion of people age 65 and older in all of census history, recording 40.3 million, or 13% of the total population. This “Boomer Generation” effect is projected to continue well into the future, with people age 65 and older expected to comprise at least 20% of the total U.S. population by the year 2050.
Sadly, along with this rise in numbers of the senior generation, another alarming trend is on the rise – elder abuse. In the U.S. alone, more than half a million reports of abuse against elderly Americans reach authorities every year. Astonishingly, authorities estimate that millions more go unreported.
According to data gathered by the National Center on Elder Abuse, the combination of lack of awareness as well as reluctance or inability to report abuse isn’t new. For instance, a 2011 study done by the Weill Cornell Medical Center of Cornell University and New York City Department for the Aging titled “The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study,” found that for every case of elder abuse known and reported to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown or not reported. Similarly, a 2003 study by the National Research Council titled “Elder mistreatment: Abuse, neglect and exploitation in an aging America,” estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.
As elders become physically or psychologically frail, they become more susceptible to many different kinds of elder abuse. There are at least six recognizable types of elder abuse, including:
Physical abuse: Use of force against an elderly person that results in physical pain, injury, or impairment.
Emotional abuse: This can include intimidation through yelling or threats, humiliation and ridicule, as well as ignoring, isolating or menacing the elderly person.
Sexual abuse: This includes sexual contact without the elder’s consent, as well as activities such as showing pornographic material, or forcing the elder to undress. In a recent case of elder sexual abuse, Owen, Patterson & Owen obtained a 12.5 million dollar jury verdict for their client, helping to hold both the individuals and the organization that enabled the abuse accountable. Listen to Senior Partner Greg Owen discuss the case in this video:
Neglect or abandonment: Lack of care, abandonment and neglect often constitutes more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse.
Financial exploitation: The unauthorized use of an elderly person’s funds or property, either by someone they know or a stranger.
Healthcare fraud and abuse: Often carried out by unethical doctors, nurses, and professional care providers, this includes charging for care that isn’t actually provided, overcharging, overmedicating or undermedicating, and recommending drugs or treatments that are not needed.
To protect our elders, it is important to be aware of these forms that elder abuse can take, as well as watch for signs that abuse may be occurring. Only by being diligent can we work together to protect our elder generation and ensure that those who would abuse others are held accountable.
Read More about what you can do about Elder Abuse / Neglect.