According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of elderly adults are abused, neglected or financially exploited in the United States on a yearly basis. Specifically, the CDC estimates that more than 500,000 elder adults are abused or neglected in nursing homes and other types of assisted living facilities each year in the U.S.
In an effort to raise awareness about the epidemic of nursing home abuse and other forms of elder abuse, June 15 is celebrated as National Elder Abuse Prevention Month in the United States.
Elder Abuse a Serious Public Health Issue
Elder abuse is considered a serious public health problem that may not have grown in terms of frequency, but is certainly gaining more and more awareness every year in the U.S. According to the CDC, there are six types of maltreatment to elders that frequently occur among people age 60 and above in the U.S. The six types of maltreatment include:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Financial Abuse
In 2008, the CDC reported that approximately one in ten elders reported suffering emotional, physical or sexual mistreatment or neglect at some point during the previous year. Sadly, elder abuse is among the most underreported instances of abuse in the U.S. because many elders are unable to report the abuse or don’t understand they are actually being abused.
How to Identify Risk of Elder Abuse
The physical and emotional trauma that typically results from elderly abuse can be devastating to the victim. Some victims may suffer physical personal injuries such as broken bones, bruises, lacerations or bed sores. In extreme cases, victims of elder abuse have been known to suffer traumatic brain injuries and even death.
There are a number of factors that can influence a person’s chances of being victimized by elder abuse. Some of these factors include:
- Heavy alcohol or drug use
- High levels of stress and/or anxiety
- A person who has a high level of dependence on the elder is likely to abuse them
- Depression or other mental health problems
- Improper training and education about how to properly care for elders
Because elder abuse is underreported, there are a number of things that caregivers and loved ones need to prevent elder abuse before it begins. Getting help from family and friends – especially during stressful or busy times of the day – can significantly reduce the chances for mistreatment of an elder.