Elder abuse is a growing and serious problem in the United States. Our elders are treasures in our lives. They have raised us, fought wars for our country and should be respected. In many cultures they are revered. In recent years, the United States Congress has shown the extent of this issue by opening hearings on elder abuse and hearing about this from of most renown elders in our country who have testified about their own personal situations and those of others. Many Americans remember our beloved Mickey Rooney’s testimony before a Senate Special Committee on Aging about his own experience with financial abuse by family members he had entrusted with his finances.
Ultimately a court of law held that these individuals had to pay over 2 million dollars for these misdeeds. The suit had been brought by a court appointed conservator for Rooney. The testimony included that of misuse of funds, but also threats and abusive words and language. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of this case was the withholding by his stepson and his wife of basic nutrition and medication which may well have shortened this national treasure’s life. He gave generations of joy in his films and died after having suffered at the hands of his family. The law protects against these abuses which statistics show are rampant across the country.
We know that across America, elders are suffering without being able to advocate for themselves. The statistics on elder abuse are sobering and concerning. Among the many statistics on this very serious issue are the following:
Each year it is estimated that more than four million elderly Americans suffer from some form of neglect or abuse. These vulnerable populations are mistreated or ignored by their caregivers or family members and in fact most often these abuses are not found in facilities, but rather in private homes. When abuse does happen in a facility, the abuse must be reported and the persons responsible can be prosecuted. It is more difficult to know about abuses behind closed doors in a private home where the elder may be living. These abuses can be physical or psychological. The majority of cases involve some sort of physical component to the abuse, such as direct harm, failure to provide nutrition or other issues.
Many cases of abuse are not reported, so the number could be much higher. The life expectancy of those elders who suffer abuse is shorter than those who have good care. The issue of elder abuse is not one of those living in facilities, in fact, most abuse occurs within the family home. The person caring for the elder at home can be a family member, a caregiver … but the fact is this is where most of the abuse occurs.
And the abuse can be subtle. It can be due to a pattern of violence and abuse that is already within the family. It can be due to an aging family member who is in need of financial or medical support which increases the stress on the family. Regardless of the cause of the abuse, it should not take place and is a tragic occurrence.