Elder abuse is a nearly invisible epidemic destroying the lives and livelihoods of aging men and women. As the population of older Americans continues to explode, advocates for the elderly fear the invisible epidemic will also expand exponentially.
In the past three decades, the number of men and women living to 90 years old and beyond has tripled. According to the Census Bureau, that number is projected to quadruple by the year 2050.
The elderly are prime targets for unscrupulous family, friends and caretakers. In addition, nursing home abuse may also become a concern as an elderly parent or relative can no longer care for himself or herself.
Recognizing and Reporting Abuse
When older men and women are exploited physically or emotionally, it is considered elder abuse. Tragically, most cases of mistreatment, neglect and abuse often go unnoticed and unreported. In fact, experts estimate that for every case of elder abuse reported, five go unreported.
Because elder abuse is often simple to disguise or dismiss, and many elderly adults are ashamed to admit the abuse, it is important for loved ones to watch for and to recognize signs of trouble. These can include:
- Bruises and broken bones
- Bed sores and pressure sores
- Malnourishment or dehydration
- Soiled bedding/clothing and poor hygiene
- Complaints of poor treatment
- Changes in personality
- Agitation, withdrawal or fear
- Frequent crying
If these signs are present and abuse is suspected, it is important to report concerns to a medical professional, social worker and/or Adult Protective Services (APS). It may also be helpful to call an elder abuse hotline or helpline and to speak with a Rockland County nursing home abuse attorney to learn what options are available.
In 2010, the Elder Justice Act was passed as part of President Barack Obama's health care reform bill. Touted as the most comprehensive federal legislation ever to combat the abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly, it has not lived up to expectations.
Because of the poor economy, the act has received no federal funding and states have been forced to cut their own budgets. However, to curb the invisible epidemic of elder abuse, elder care advocacy groups, such as the AARP, are working to launch educational campaigns to teach communities about elder abuse, how to report it and how to prevent it.