Elder Abuse in U.S. Increases with the Size of the Older Population

According to recent reports by the National Center on Elder Abuse — Administration of Aging (Department of Health and Human Services), America’s expanding elderly population has led to an increase in elder abuse.

It is predicted that by 2050, people 65 and older will make up 20% of the total U.S. population. Today, the fastest growing segment of America’s population consists of those 85 years and older. In 2010, there were about 5.8 million people 85 or older. By the year 2050, it is projected that there will be 19 million people over 85.

“Elder abuse” is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether the harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who is in a trust relationship with the elder. Other abuse includes the failure of caregivers to provide the basic needs of an older adult or to protect the elder from harm from others.

The most likely reason for insufficient data on elder abuse is that much of it is missed by professionals who work with older Americans. That is because there is a shortage of well-trained professionals working with the elderly population. Many elderly individuals are also reluctant to report abuse because they fear retaliation or they lack physical or cognitive ability to report. Too often, the elderly are abused by family members.

Reports of financial exploitation accompany reports of physical abuse.

According to recent research:

• Nine in ten adults who experience abuse also are victims of financial abuse.
• Available data from state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies show an increasing trend in the reporting of elder abuse.
• It is overwhelmingly true that the number of cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation go undetected and untreated.
• One study estimated that only one in 14 cases of elder abuse ever come to the attention of authorities who can do something about the abuse or stop it.
• Adults self-reported more cases of major financial exploitation than other types of emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect to the elderly.

It seems surprising that the national studies show that the vast majority of abusers were family members. The percentage is about 90% and most often the offenders are adult children, spouses, or partners of the abused elderly person. Family members who abuse drugs or alcohol or who have a history of mental or emotional illnesses have been known to be abusers because of the burden of caregiver responsibilities.

Research shows that people with dementia are at greater risk of elder abuse than those without. About 5.1 million American elders over 65 have some kind of dementia. Close to half of all people over 85 years of age, the fastest growing segment of the population, have Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia.

Today more than 3.2 million Americans reside in nursing homes. Seven percent of all complaints in institutional facilities, including long-term care facilities, were complaints of abuse, neglect or exploitation. In a study of nursing home residents, which interviewed 2,000 were interviewed, 44% said they had been abused and 95% said they had been neglected or had seen other residents neglected.

Nursing home abuse is a real problem. Most residents abused in nursing homes tend to be the elderly and women. The cost of nursing home and long-term care abuse is extremely high. The direct medical costs associated with injuries to older adults are estimated to add over $5.3 billion to the nation’s annual health expenditures. Nursing home administrators and managers must be acutely aware that elder abuse may occur in their facilities. There is a great demand and need for skilled nursing home caregivers, medical personnel and managers. Oversight is critical in protecting those among us who are most vulnerable to abuse.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families who have been abused in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Maywood, Bensenville, Romeoville, Bolingbrook, Wheeling, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Glenview, Northfield, Northbrook, Highland Park, Highwood, Hillside, Elmhurst and River Grove, Ill.

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