The population of older Americans (age 65 and older) has reached historic highs in recent years as the Baby Boomer generation enters their retirement years. Moreover, experts tell us that the increase in the older population will continue in the years to come. Sadly, with the increase in the number of seniors has come a corresponding increase in instances of elder abuse throughout the nation. If you are a senior yourself, or have a loved one who is, the elder law attorneys at Kulas & Crawford offer tips to help prevent elder abuse and spot the signs of elder abuse.
How Bad Is the Elder Abuse Problem in the U.S.?
Accurate facts and figures relating to the severity of the elder abuse problem in the U.S. are not easy to gather for several reasons, including non-uniform reporting requirements, victims being ashamed and unwilling to report the abuse, and victims who fear reprisals if they do speak out. Despite the difficulties gathering data, there are some statistics showing how bad the elder abuse problem is in the U.S., including the following:
- Experts believe 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 reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two-thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.
- More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
- Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
- More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities.
- According to Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs in 2003, there were more than 20 thousand complaints of exploitation, neglect and abuse coming from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The most common type of abuse reported was physical abuse.
- The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year. Ten percent were cases unrelated to financial exploitation.
Steps You Can Take to Prevent Elder Abuse
Prevention is obviously preferable to recognizing that a loved one has already been victimized. Toward that end, the following steps may help you prevent a loved one from becoming a victim of elder abuse:
- Talk to your loved one. Have an open discussion about the subject and explain that a victim should never be ashamed nor fear reporting abuse. Encourage your loved one to confide in you if anything doesn’t feel right with a caregiver.
- Don’t automatically trust anyone. Remember, over half of all perpetrators are family members. Institute a system of checks and balances within the family.
- Research long-term care facilities. There are caring and compassionate facilities; however, there are also LTC facilities where abuse is tolerated and/or ignored. Take your time and research any potential facility.
- Screen caregivers. Don’t count on a service or company to pre-screen home health workers. Do your own background check before allowing them into your loved one’s home.
- Be present. Whether your loved one is in a LTC facility or being cared for at home, pop up unannounced at least once a week. Predators are less likely to victimize someone if it is clear that people are watching and care what happens.
- Monitor finances. Even if your loved one is still capable of managing his/her finances, you should monitor them as well because you may catch something your loved one doesn’t.
- Consider guardianship. You may need to act quickly if you suspect abuse. Having the legal authority to do so may be critical. Consider obtaining guardianship over your loved one ahead of time in case you need that authority.
Contact Florida Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding how to prevent elder abuse or what to do if you suspect a loved one is the victim of abuse, contact the experienced Florida elder law attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.