Around 10 percent of Americans 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse, according to the National Council on Aging.
Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year, and one study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse is reported to authorities.
“Elder abuse, like other domestic violence, tends to be hidden. The old generation is particularly secretive about airing dirty laundry, so they are not as likely to call police, obtain protective orders, seek shelter, etc.,” said Sonia Lynne Salari, associate professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah.
What abuse looks like
Elder abuse takes many forms, from a niece stealing cash out of an elderly aunt’s wallet or a son physically abusing a mother, to a daughter neglecting an older adult she is charged with caring for. Emotional abuse, confinement, sexual abuse and financial deprivation are all forms of elder abuse.
“The research is clear that financial exploitation and emotional/psychological abuse are the most common forms. Sometimes older people are abused emotionally or psychologically, for example gaslighting (manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying in an attempt to make a person feel at wits’ end), so that the abuser can obtain or control the older person’s income,” said Kendon Conrad, professor emeritus and senior research scientist of Health Policy & Administration at University of Illinois at Chicago. “Neglect is also highly prevalent, but this is not as clear since it is sometimes difficult to distinguish neglect by a caregiver from self-neglect.”
What kind of person would harm or take advantage of the elderly? Too often the culprits are their own family members, both male and female.
As America becomes an increasingly aging nation, elder abuse will continue to rise. The U.S. Census Bureau expects the population aged 65 and older to nearly double from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million in 2050.
Elder abuse is generally considered a state and local problem rather than a federal one. Some states are doing better than others to stop elder abuse. Personal finance website WalletHub recently compared 50 states and the District of Columbia on 10 key indicators of elder-abuse protection including exploitation complaints, financial elder-abuse laws and gross neglect.
The states with the least protections were South Dakota, Rhode Island, California, Wyoming and South Carolina. Protecting an elderly loved one from financial abuse means checking in regularly and staying in contact by phone or in person Glitten News