Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 of 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
Abusers are both women and men. In almost 90% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member; Two thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.
What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse? Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) are two factors. Recent studies show that nearly half of those with dementia experienced abuse or neglect. Interpersonal violence also occurs at disproportionately higher rates among adults with disabilities.
How can elder abuse be prevented? Educating seniors, professionals, caregivers, and the public on abuse is critical to prevention.
If you’re an older adult, you can stay safe by:
- Taking care of your health.
- Seeking professional help for drug, alcohol, and depression concerns and urging family members to get help for these problems.
- Attending support groups for spouses and learning about domestic violence services.
- Planning for your own future. With a power of attorney or a living will, you can address health care decisions now to avoid confusion and family problems later. Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
- Staying active in the community and connected with friends and family. This will decrease social isolation, which has been connected to elder abuse.
- Posting and opening your own mail.
- Not giving personal information over the phone.
- Using direct deposit for all checks.
- Having your own phone.
- Reviewing your will periodically.
- Knowing your rights. If you engage the services of a paid or family caregiver, you have the right to voice your preferences and concerns. If you live in a nursing home, call your Long Term Care Ombudsman. The ombudsman is your advocate and has the power to intervene.
Get more elder abuse data from the U.S. Administration on Aging, or Visit http://www2.erie.gov/seniorservices/index.php?q=adult-protective-serviceselder-abuse for more information.