WASHINGTON, DC – As the population ages, incidents of elder abuse increase, according to the World Health Organization. WHO estimates that almost 17% of seniors 60 years of age and older have experienced some form of abuse over the past 12 months.
“Nearly 42 million residents of the U.S. are 60 years old. That means more than seven million seniors were ill-treated by caregivers, family members and even friends last year. But, the alarming fact is that segment of the population is growing exceptionally fast. In fact, each day 10,000 more citizens turn 65. The Census Bureau estimates that by the year 2035, 78 million citizens and immigrants living in America will be 65 years old and older. Does that mean 17% of them, 13 or 14 million seniors, will be in danger of being victimized,” asks Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].
It is up to state and local governments to ensure that vulnerable senior citizens are protected, but it is also a responsibility for friends and family.
Most of the abuse takes place in institutional settings. Nearly two-thirds of abuse takes place in institutional settings such as nursing homes. The onus is on the public sector authorities that oversee those facilities to make sure those who are being cared for in those residences are safe.
Weber has called on government overseers to use their powers to ensure the safety of nursing home residents. “Family members need to get involved, too. They need to thoroughly check out facilities for loved ones who need them. They must find out if there is a past history of abuse. Once a family member takes up residency in a home, they should make regular, unscheduled visits to make sure they are not being mistreated.”
However, nearly 16% of abuse takes place in a victims’ own homes, whether they are living alone or with family members. “And, it is up to friends and family members to look in on them on a regular basis and deal with any threatening situations. An errant caregiver and even a frustrated son, daughter, niece or nephew may be engaging in physical, psychological or financial abuse. But it can’t be spotted and stopped if a responsible third party is not keeping tabs on an at-risk friend or relative.”
Weber suggests that when engaging a professional caregiver, make sure you do a thorough background check. But, he says, it is important to provide the individual you hire with fair terms of employment—including ensuring that he or she has a manageable work schedule. “It’s a difficult, and sometimes thankless job. They must have a routine that allows for breaks when needed.”
And, lest it is overlooked, the patient may also be a victim of self-neglect, a condition that is particularly prevalent among those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.