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Understanding Elder Abuse

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Updated: December 11, 2006

An introduction to issues of elder abuse

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse affects men and women of all ethnic backgrounds and social status. Estimating the numbers of elders who are victims of abuse is difficult. Research and awareness of elder abuse is something that has only been studied comparitively recently and there is no uniform reporting system. Bodies such as the National Center on Elder Abuse periodically collects, analyzes, funds and publishes statistics on abuse of older persons in the United States. Their estimates of the number of elders who are victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation are shocking.

The NCEA suggest that more than 500,000 Americans aged 60 and over were victims of domestic abuse in 1996. The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that there may be as many as 5 million elder victims of abuse every year. Other studies estimate that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the elderly population have been abused.

Elder Abuse--A Hidden Problem
Part of the problem in working out how many older people are victims of abuse is that it is a hidden problem. Judging how many older Americans are abused, neglected, or exploited is difficult because surveillance is limited. The public, rightly, do not tolerate violence in whatever form to vulnerable minorities so those who do need help are reluctant to seek it. Some studies estimate that only about 16% to 21% of the abuse situations are referred for help, the remaining 79% to 84% remain hidden.

Elder Abuse-A Family Problem
The sadness of elder abuse is that it is mostly perpetrated by family members. It is because of this fact that so few cases of elder abuse are reported, prosecuted or refered for help and assistance. Statistics on the family member who abuse old relatives have been estimated as:

  • Adult children of the victim- 47%

  • Spouses- 19%

  • Grandchildren-9%

  • Other relatives-9%

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