The media are replete with stories of domestic abuse, child abuse, drug abuse…even animal abuse. But there is another kind of abuse that garners very little attention, abuse that afflicts millions of Americans. It’s elder abuse—a problem that few people want to talk about or even acknowledge.
Sadly, approximately 90 percent of the abusers are family members: children abusing elderly parents, husbands and wives abusing their diminished partners who need assistance and time-consuming attention. Others include attendants or fellow residents in nursing homes and scammers who yearly bilk vulnerable older citizens out of millions of dollars.
The latest survey of Adult Protective Services reports that abuse is on the rise, up by nearly 20 percent from 2000. Most victims are white, 66 percent are women and 43 percent are 80 years old or older. Types of abuse include physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Financial abuse, neglect and abandonment are also growing problems.
Fortunately, there is a growing awareness of this problem and the need to do something about it. Community education programs are sprouting up that focus on educating people to recognize and prevent abuse of the elderly. State adult protective services agencies are also investigating reported incidents of known or suspected abuse. Even Congress is getting involved.
U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said, “Our nation has for far too long turned its back on the shame of elder abuse.”
We hope this article series will help you gain awareness of elderly abuse. Public involvement is essential if we are to change this dangerous and humiliating situation.