Every person, no matter how young or old, deserves to be safe from harm by those who live with them, care for them, or come in day-to-day contact with them. Elder abuse is not acceptable. It is a complex problem that many communities are just now coming to grips with. Experts agree that for every report of abuse to authorities as many as fourteen cases go unreported. Most people think of elder abuse as happening primarily in nursing homes. This is a myth. While there are incidents of abuse happening in facilities, most elder abuse and neglect takes place at home and the abusers are not strangers. Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of sex, ethnicity, religious affiliation or income level.
- Nearly 5 Million cases of elder abuse occur each year, but 85% go unreported.
- Abused elders have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those not mistreated.
- Family, friends, caregivers and neighbors are the culprits in financial abuse cases more than half the time.
- By 2030, the numbers of older Americans over age 85 – those most at risk for abuse – will more than double.
Many factors leave the elderly vulnerable to abuse, including physical and cognitive impairments such as dementia, social isolation, greater dependency upon others for care and a history or family dynamic of long standing domestic violence. Often the victim does not report the abuse due to embarrassment, loyalty, self ‐ blame, denial or fear of retribution. If you have reason to believe a senior is being abused call local law enforcement or the Area Agency on Aging’s Adult Protective Services at 1-800-786‐5536.
Resources from the National Center on Elder Abuse:
Adult Protective Services
Adult Protective Services is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation against vulnerable disabled and senior populations. A vulnerable adult means a person eighteen (18) years of age or older who is unable to protect protect himself from abuse, neglect or exploitation due to physical or mental impairment which affects the person's judgment or behavior to the extent that he lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate or implement decisions regarding his person, funds, property or resources. Competent adults retain the right to refuse services and an adult is presumed competent unless deemed otherwise by a court of law. APS works with agencies within the community to help eliminate or reduce the risk in an effort to protect .
Abuse is the intentional or negligent infliction of physical pain, injury or mental injury. Some of the signs of abuse are: physical indicators such as bruises, burns, broken bones and dislocations; imposed isolation of the vulnerable adult or a sudden change in their behavior including agitation in the presence of particular persons are also warning signs.
Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to provide food, clothing, shelter or necessary medical care. Self ‐ neglect is the failure of a vulnerable adult to provide these items for themselves. Signs neglect may be happening include unkempt appearance and poor hygiene in someone who has previously been fastidious in their appearance, unplanned weight loss, inadequate food, little or no medical care, inadequate resources like heat and electricity, dehydration and the lack of necessary medications.
Exploitation is the misuse of a vulnerable adult ’ s funds, property or resources by another person for profit or advantage. Signs of exploitation include new and previously uninvolved persons appearing in a senior’s life, sudden changes to legal documents including wills, property titles and Powers of Attorney, the level of resources being spent for care does not match the level of available assets, bills going unpaid when you know their income is sufficient to pay them, new large ticket items (cars, boats, etc.) being purchased when the vulnerable adult has no known use for them and items of value are missing from the home.
Effective interventions can help prevent or stop abuse of vulnerable adults. If you have knowledge of a vulnerable adult being abused, neglected or exploited call your local law enforcement or The Area Agency on Aging.
The Idaho Commission on Aging provides this secure online system for mandated reporters and financial institutions to report suspicions of abuse, neglect, self-neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults age 18 years and older. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.