June 15th was designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day for 2014, and this column marked the event with two articles which explained the various types of elder abuse, the warning signs, how to report suspected abuse in Pennsylvania, and reasons why a majority of abuse cases are unreported. In an effort to further promote awareness of elder abuse and to provide information and resources in the fight against this serious issue, the U.S. Department of Justice recently has launched a new elder justice website
This website is designed to aid affected individuals, their families, the general public, researchers, and professionals from all disciplines who work with seniors. The public can find general information about abuse, samples of situations that are considered abusive, explanations of the responsibilities of various agencies in responding to abuse reports, and contact information for reporting abuse in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Federal, state, and local authorities can access statutes and related documents for use in prosecuting abuse cases. An extensive database of scientific, legal, and general literature about elder abuse is available for researchers, and professionals can find resources to help prevent abuse and assist victims.
In review, elder abuse is considered an action or lack of action by another party that betrays the trust of an older person and causes the older person harm or distress. As reported by the Department of Justice website, studies across the nation show a yearly breakdown of the prevalence of the various types of abuse cases as follows:
In addition, several studies of Adult Protective Services cases indicate that approximately 30-40% of abused seniors may experience two or more forms of abuse simultaneously by the same perpetrator. This situation is referred to as polyvictimization.
Community involvement in combating the issue of elder abuse is essential since the majority of seniors in our nation reside in community settings (fewer than 4% of those over age 65 are in long-term care facilities). Of abuse cases reported to Adult Protective Services, 89.3% occur in the home. As our senior population continues to grow in the coming years, additional stress will be placed on service systems that are currently uncoordinated and financially stretched. This scenario increases the risk of elder abuse going unreported and unremedied. Only by working together can we hope to ease this social crisis that affects not only the health and welfare of the victim, but has enormous financial ramifications for all of society as well.
Karen Kaslow, RN