A major obstacle to preventing and stopping elder abuse is that many elderly loved ones do not or cannot report the problem. An elderly person may be afraid of an abuser’s retaliation, and many victims are cognitively or physically incapable of reporting the abuse. In many other cases, the abuser is actually a family member, and the vulnerable adult doesn’t want the abuser to get into trouble.
With all of these issues combined, a disturbing result is that elder abuse and neglect are widely underreported. In fact, according to a 2011 study out of New York, for every known case of elder abuse, an estimated 24 cases were unknown.
Elder abuse and neglect are forms of mistreatment generally defined by intentional actions on the part of a caregiver or some other person in a position of trust. The purpose of those actions may not be to cause personal injury to a vulnerable elder, but a negligent or reckless action that results in harm or risk to an elderly person can be defined as elder abuse. For example, nursing home negligence often results in harm to elderly people.
Additionally, many professionals who work with vulnerable adults aren’t properly trained to notice when abuse has occurred. Such lack of training could easily become a factor in more cases as America’s elderly population continues to grow.
If New Yorkers suspect that an elderly loved one has been abused, then it is extremely important to report the problem and seek legal help as soon as possible. Waiting could have devastating consequences.
Source: National Center on Elder Abuse, “Statistics/Data,” 2014