The definition of elder abuse can be summed up as being an act, knowing and intentional, perpetrated on a person over 65 which causes harm, substantial risk of harm or distress.
In 2010, there were approximately 5.8 million people living in the US who were over the age of 85.
- By 2050, it is estimated that the over 65 year old age group will represent around 20% of the population, of which around 19 million will be over the age of 85 years.
- There are Adult Protective Services (APS’s) in each of the fifty States, but how they are constituted and what they actually do varies considerably, which can be a barrier to effective use of these services.
- Because elders often don’t report abuse, it is hard to get accurate statistics, but research indicates that some 7 – 10% of elders report abuse over the prior year – this doesn’t include financial abuse.
- Reasons that abuse may not be reported include fear of reprisal, impaired understanding of the situation, fear of losing the services of the carer (such as they are) and not wanting to create trouble for the carer.
- It’s thought that as few as one in fourteen cases of elder abuse are ever reported. In New York State the figure is estimated at one in twenty five.
- Significant financial abuse, such as being forced to sign over property, sell or give away assets or change wills, was reported by just over 4% of those surveyed.
- Other forms of abuse include physical, emotional and sexual.
- Abusers are overwhelmingly family members, which can include children, wives, husbands and partners, brothers and sisters, as well as more distant family members. They are thought to make up around 90% of abusers.
- Elders with physical or mental disabilities are more likely to be abused.
- 67% of disabled women and 55% of disabled men reported having been abused by carers over their lifetime. This includes 53% of women who had been sexually abused.
- Around 5 million Americans aged over 65, and half of all those aged over 85, suffer from some form of dementia. This is problematic in two ways. Firstly, because those with dementia may be less capable of reporting abuse, and secondly, because of the strains of caring for those with dementia, which may lead to frustration and distancing for the carer, resulting in abuse.
- Abuse in nursing homes amounts to 7% of the claims reported to Ombudsmen.
- Over 3 million Americans reside in nursing homes or other forms of institutional elder care.
- A study undertaken in 2000 reported that 95% of residents had seen others in their care facility neglected or abused, and 44% had themselves been neglected or abused.
- Elders who have been abused are considered to be three times more likely to die than others of similar age and health status who have not been abused. They also experience worse health, including mental health, self esteem, confidence and associated aspects of social wellbeing.
The cost of elder abuse is estimated to be over $5 billion in additional health care costs.
Financial losses due to financial abuse of elders are hard to estimate, but are considered to be in excess of $3 billion each year.
(Source - National Center On Elder Abuse - Department of Health and Human Services)