Elder Abuse a Growing Problem

A recent article on USAToday.com reported that the number of people who live to 90 years of age and beyond has tripled in the past 30 years to 2 million and is projected to quadruple by 2050, according to the Census Bureau.

As the number of older Americans grows, many are forced to live with their children or grandchildren as a result of the current economic crisis. But this trend has led to situations where the elderly are taken advantage of financially or abused physically by their caretakers. As a result, advocates for the old are pushing to educate communities about elder abuse and how to prevent it.

Laura Mosqueda, co-director of the National Center on Elder Abuse and director of the geriatrics program at the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine, is quoted in the article as saying, “The fastest-growing segment are people over 85 and the percentage of people with Alzheimer’s, dementia is at an all-time high. This is just an absolute recipe for disaster.”

The Cedar Village Retirement Community in Mason, OH opened a long-term care facility this month for victims of abuse. It’s the first elder abuse shelter in Ohio and one of only a half-dozen in the country, funded by non-profit groups.

Sally Hume, AARP’s senior project manager in education and outreach said, “There is a genuine recognition by those who are concerned by the abuse of elders that there need to be appropriate safe houses for them to get them out of immediate harm’s way. Nationally, we’ve been aware of the need for elder abuse shelters, but they’ve been slow in coming into fruition.”

The Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx in New York City was the first in the nation, opening its doors seven years ago. Elder abuse shelters care for abused seniors by providing medical, nursing, and therapy services, meals, legal services, social work, pastoral care, and social, recreational, and educational programs.

“We estimate that as many as one in 10 (seniors) at some point are victims of elder abuse. A victim of elder abuse can be anyone. They can be rich or poor. They can be independent. They can live in a facility,” said Carol Silver Elliott, CEO and president of Cedar Village Retirement Community.

Elliot said some seniors become ill and unknowingly sign over their assets to those who care for them. “A few months later they find out they don’t have a house, their bank account is cleaned out. They have essentially nothing,” said Elliott. Others suffer physical abuse that can include not being fed or cleaned to being beaten.

But the problem can be difficult to identify or may go unreported because victims are abused by those who care for them. They may be cut off by their caretakers so they don’t have a way to let others know that they are being abuse.

Advocates say increasing public awareness is the best defense against elder abuse.

Abuse can also happen in the very nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities where we placed our loved ones when we are no longer able to take care of them ourselves. Be alert to signs of physical abuse or neglect when you visit a loved one in a nursing home. If for any reason you think neglect may be an issue, report the incident immediately. Or refer to a nursing home abuse attorney, such as the attorneys of O’Connor Law, for help and information.

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