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Elder Abuse in America

The 50 year old daughter threatens her octogenarian mother, "You have all this money ma, if you don't buy me a new house, I swear, I will put you in a home."
"I can't take it any more; caring for you, cleaning up after you, why can't you just stay in your room?" The elderly wife says to her husband of 53 years as she hits him with her cane repeatedly.

At 93 years of age Mrs. Carrell lives in the small house behind her 68 year old son. While she is homebound, Mrs. Carrell can often be seen walking the neighborhood in a robe when the weather is inclement.

Financial abuse, physical abuse, neglect and abandonment; these are examples of elder abuse that occur daily throughout the United States. Relatively new to senior issues, since 1988 elder abuse has gained public interest and awareness with the establishment of the U.S. Administration on Aging. According to the AoA, Elder abuse is defined as knowing, intentional or negligent acts by caregivers or family to a vulnerable older adult.

Elder abuse manifests in a variety of ways including the obvious physical symptoms of bruises or burns; a change in one's financial situation; or more subtly, self-neglect resulting in hoarding, poor personal hygiene or confusion. While dementia or Alzheimer's may be contributing factors to the vulnerability of the elderly, social isolation and the general aging process can easily mask or mimic abuse.

A study released in 2000 by the National Center on Elder Abuse found that more than 500,000 cases of abuse are being reported each year for adults over 60 years of age. Unfortunately, however, the study goes on to state that for every case filed, five cases of elder abuse go unreported. And elder abuse in on the rise. 89% of all cases occur in a domestic setting as opposed to for profit or professional facilities. Women make up two thirds of elder abuse cases. Adults over 80 years of age account for more than 40% of all cases. 30% of the abusers are family members and 20% are spouses.

As a family member, friend, neighbor, or part of the greater community, each of us has a responsibility to get involved in this growing tragedy. How can you help? Keep a watchful eye out for the elderly. Speak up if you have any suspicions or concerns. If you witness a senior in a life threatening situation call 911 for help. To report abuse you should call the Eldercare office at 1-800-677-1116 or for more information on state and local agencies go to the AoA website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

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