You have likely heard at least one horrible story recently that involves elder abuse and/or neglect. Sadly, elder abuse is becoming a common topic in the news media given the frequency with which it occurs in the United States. While you may be aware that elder abuse is a very real problem in the U.S., you may not know everything that you need to know. With that in mind, a Roseville elder law attorney at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law discusses the little known truth about elder abuse.
How Often Does Elder Abuse Occur?
Elder abuse is not a new problem in the United States; however, the recent population explosion in the over 65 demographic has heightened awareness of the problem. Unfortunately, accurate statistics regarding the frequency with which the elderly are abused are difficult to come by for several reasons. As states enact new laws and procedures relating to elder abuse, uniform reporting requirements remain elusive. In addition, many victims of elder abuse are ashamed to admit being abused or fear reprisals by the abuser on whom they often depend for everything from transportation to housing.
- More than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reported, as many as 14 go unreported.
- 1 in 20 older adults indicate some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past
- 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year.
Who Commits Elder Abuse?
When you here about elder abuse, you probably envision the abuse occurring in a nursing home or other long-term care facility. Those are the stories that tend to make headline news; however, the majority of the perpetrators of elder abuse are not paid healthcare workers. Sadly, the most likely person to commit elder abuse is a family member. Experts estimated that between 60 and 90 percent of the perpetrators of elder abuse are family members with an adult child and/or the spouse of an adult child being the most likely abuser.
Frequently, seniors turn to family members to care for them when they need help, either because they don’t want to leave the comfort of their own home or because they cannot afford to do so. Unfortunately, this can leave them extremely vulnerable because they may become dependent on that caregiver. As an elderly individual’s physical and/or mental health deteriorates, it becomes easier and easier for a caregiver to become abusive. If no one else in the family is providing oversight, a caregiver can syphon off money and assets without anyone realizing it. Physical and emotional abuse often go unchecked as well because the victim either doesn’t want to tell anyone or is not able to speak up. Sometimes the perpetrator is not consciously aware that his/her actions constitute abuse. More often, however, the abuse is significant enough that it is impossible to argue ignorance – particularly if it has been going one for some time.
How Can I Prevent Elder Abuse by a Family Member?
If you have a parent, grandparent, or other elderly family member who requires a caregiver, you can do something to help minimize the likelihood of abuse. In fact, the best thing you can do to prevent a family caregiver from abusing an elderly loved one is to provide some oversight. Do not just assume that all is well – and do not take your loved one’s word on it. Show up unexpectedly at least once a month. Ask questions – both of your loved one and of your family member. If something seems suspicious, act on it. Do not simply sweep things under the proverbial carpet. If you do determine that your loved one is being abused, contact an experienced elder law attorney right away to discuss what legal options are available to help.
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. If you have questions or concerns about elder law issues, contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.