Neglect of the elderly, an all-too-often occurrence in nursing homes and other community settings, will take center stage June 15, 2017, during World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
The day brings about a 24-hour period in which voices far and wide can express opposition to cruel actions targeting those too fragile and frail to take care of themselves.
“Older people have the right, just like people of all ages, to live safely free from harm, abuse, and exploitation,” states the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Web site. “Any actions that breach this right are a form of abuse.”
Research shows such abuse is grossly underreported. In 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available, an approximate 1.5 million U.S. seniors lived in some type of institution that provides care. The percentage of complaints to those institutions numbered close to 190,000, of which 7.6 percent involved abuse.
“Abuse of older residents by other residents in long-term care facilities is now recognized as a problem that is more common than physical abuse by staff,” states the National Center on Elder Abuse Web site. “However, more research is still needed.”
Elder abuse also takes place in other community settings like private homes or group homes with licenses to care for the elderly. Those statistics aren’t much better. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about 10 percent of patients suffered either physical, psychological, sexual or verbal abuse or were financially exploited.
“A groundbreaking study based in New York estimated that 260,000 (1 in 13) older adults in the state of New York had been victims of at least one form of elder abuse in the preceding year,” the center reports. “This study found that major financial exploitation was self-reported at a rate of 41 per 1,000 surveyed, which was higher than self-reported rates of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.”
Anyone suspecting elder abuse should relay the information to the proper authorities. In some cases, it will be Adult Protective Services or Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs. Local law-enforcement agencies should be told about any abuse criminal in nature so an investigation can ensue. State attorneys general are required to prosecute cases of abuse when Medicaid is involved. In an emergency, call 911.
“Elder abuse is a problem that exists in both developing and developed countries yet is typically underreported globally,” states the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Web site. “Although the extent of elder abuse is unknown, it is nonetheless a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.”