Shedding Light on Elder Abuse

  by Tyler Curtis

By 2030, there will be approximately 72.1 million Americans in the over-65 crowd, more than double the number in 2000.  As this section of the population grows, so does the very real problem of elder abuse.  Elder abuse is inflicting physical, psychological, sexual, or financial harm on a senior adult. It also includes neglect and exploitation.

It is currently estimated that  2.1 million Americans fall victim to elder abuse each year. It’s important to note that not only is the number of reported cases increasing, it’s believed that for every case we know about, as many as 22 cases go unexposed.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

In 2006, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the United Nations World Health Organization launched World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  On June 15th, we will observe the 8th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  The goal of this day is to increase awareness about the complex problem of elder abuse, as well as generate support for programs and services.

Research about elder abuse indicates the following:

 – Women and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized1

 – Those suffering from dementia are at greater risk of elder abuse2

 – Elders who experienced abuse had a 300% higher risk of death than those who had not been abused

 – The vast majority of abusers were family members (approximately 90%), most often adult children, spouses, partners, and others.4

– Elder abuse occurs in community settings, such as private homes, as well as institutional settings like nursing homes and other types of long term care facilities.

– The direct medical costs associated with violent injuries to older adults are estimated to add over $5.3 billion to the nation’s annual health expenditure5

What You Can Do

There is much you can do to raise awareness and promote solutions for elder abuse.  Here are a few simple things you can do to get started:

 – Share the word.  Use social media as a way to let your friends know that June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

 – This Saturday, wear purple.  Purple is the designated color for elder abuse awareness.

 – Commit to spending time with an elderly friend or family member.  Isolation is a risk-factor for elder abuse.

 – Attend a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event.  Click here to find events near you.

 – Volunteer for an organization like Meals on Wheels.

 – Read 11 Things that anyone can do to prevent elder abuse.

Resources for You

Additionally there are many online resources available to you and your family:

National Center on Elder Abuse

10 Things Anyone Can Do to Protect Seniors

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Protect Yourself from Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

State resources and contact information for reporting elder abuse

1National Center on Elder Abuse, Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study: Final report. Washington D.C.: Authors

2Cooney C, Howard R, Lawlor B. (2006) Abuse of vulnerable people with dementia by their careers: Can we identify those most at risk? International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21(6), 564-571.

3Dong X, Simon M, Mendes de Leon C, Fulmer T, Beck T, Hebert L, et al. (2009) Elder self-neglect and abuse and mortality risk in a community-dwelling population. Journal of the American Medical Association, 302(5),517-526.

4National Center on Elder Abuse, Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study: Final report. Washington D.C.: Authors.

5Mouton CP, Rodabough RJ, Rovi SL, Hunt JL, Talamantes MA, Brzyski RG et al. (2004) Prevalence and 3-year incidence of abuse among postmenopausal women. American Journal of Public Health, 94(4),605-612.

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