As Elder Population Grows, So Does Need for Awareness of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a disturbing (and often underreported) issue that will eventually impact all of us—if not on a personal level then most likely by touching the life of someone we know and love. Elder abuse is something that is difficult for most people to consider, not only because the idea is such a disturbing one, but also because it is so insidious.

Elder abuse can be either physical or financial; it can happen to seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia as well as seniors who still have all their mental faculties; and the perpetrators can be strangers, nursing staff, or even family members. Once you begin to learn about it, it seems that the opportunity for elder abuse can be lurking around every corner.

This recent and disturbing article from PBS Frontline brings to light some of the ways that the medical community itself has managed to overlook or ignore elder abuse whose evidence is right under their noses. “Autopsies of seniors have become increasingly rare even as the population age 65 or older has grown. Between 1972 and 2007, a government analysis found, the share of U.S. autopsies performed on seniors dropped from 37 percent to 17 percent.” What this means is that “coroner and medical examiner offices, which are responsible for probing sudden and unusual fatalities… — hampered by chronic underfunding, a shortage of trained doctors and a lack of national standards — have sometimes helped to send innocent people to prison and allowed killers to walk free.” This may be especially true in cases of elder abuse. It’s clear that something needs to be done.

USA Today reports that not everyone has their heads in the sand. “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.” Furthermore, public figures (such as Mickey Rooney) coming forward with their own stories and experiences has helped raise awareness of elder abuse.

For more information about elder abuse and what you can do to prevent it, you can go to the National Center on Elder Abuse website, or contact our office.

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