Elder abuse is a growing problem affecting 1 in 10 Americans ages 60 and over (National Council on Aging, 2020), with as many as 5 million elders being abused each year in the United States. According to The National Research Council, it is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to law enforcement. The Elder Abuse Awareness Website (2019), reports that there are an estimated 202,549 cases of reported elder and dependent adult abuse in California each year. That means less than 5% of abuse against an elder or dependent adult is being reported. In addition to being grossly under reported, these types of abuse is usually reported to programs and agencies working with elder abuse victims and not to law enforcement.
California recognizes the eight types of abuse against elderly and dependent adults including physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, financial abuse, mental abuse, abandonment, isolation and self-neglect. Like most types of abuse, elder abuse is usually perpetrated by a person of trust such as a family member, a caregiver or professional providing care. The cause of elder abuse will also differ from case to case and can vary from the desire to control the person to the possibility for financial gain to the person who causes harm. Older adults become easy targets due to their increased vulnerabilities and the belief that they won’t report the abuse or be believed.
Not all abuse is done with the intent to harm. Lack of knowledge or of capability can also lead to the unintended abuse or neglect of an elderly person. This was seen in the case of a 90 year old woman who was not physically able to turn her 200 pound bedridden husband. This resulted in bedsores due to the lack of attention and improper medical care. Although there was no ill-intent to cause harm, this type of negligence leads to physical injuries.
Another reason why elder abuse goes unreported is because it is often difficult to recognize. As we get older our bodies become more frail and our skin becomes thinner which is more likely to tear. Injuries sustained by someone who has been physically or sexually abused can go unnoticed or misidentified.
By 2030, all Baby Boomers will have reached 60 years old and there will be an estimated 10.9 millions older Californians – a larger growth rate than any other state (State of California Department of Aging, 2017). We must do our part to keep our loved ones safe by learning the warning signs, keeping our eyes open and reporting any abuse. Our goal at Radiant Futures is to educate the community in order to help identify, prevent, and spread awareness for elder abuse. Show your support during Elder Abuse Awareness month in June by wearing a blue ribbon, and by joining us to learn about Radiant Futures’s services and how you can get involved.