Elder abuse has become a growing health issue around the world. In fact, on June 15, 2015, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will be held. The World Health Organization, which works in conjunction with the United Nations, initiated this day in 2006. Despite many of the myths that this happens only in certain cultures, reports are showing that this issue has all cultural groups.
Prosecuting these cases have many roadblocks. Many District Attorneys are more concerned about their “win-win” records rather than going after the abusers. When one is more concerned about having a successful track record as opposed to prosecuting those who afflict elder abuse, it is a travesty. Attorney Generals have Elder Abuse Task Forces in place. The reality is that in spite of that, you have to wait for action taken by the local authorities for they will intervene.
In order to understand why elder abuse is difficult to prosecute, it is necessary to review the literature that detail the issue of elder abuse, but also the underlining problems that are connected.
Elder abuse is simply the mistreatment of the elderly.According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, it is defined as “any knowing, intended or careless act that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older person – physically, mentally, emotionally or financially.” According to the National Center for Elder Abuse Administration on Aging, there are seven types of elder abuse. They are the following:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional or Psychological Abuse
- Financial or Material Exploitation
Cooper, Selwood and Livingston’s (2007) study the prevalence of elder abuse. Their study included forty-nine studies that were similar theirs. It resulted in discovering that in the general population studies, 6% of older people reported significant abuse in the last month and 5.6% of couples reported physical violence in their relationship in the last year. It also resulted in revealing that five percent of family caregivers reported physical abuse towards care recipients with dementia in a year, and a third reported any significant abuse. Finally, it showed that one out of four seniors is vulnerable to elder abuse and many times not recognized.
Schulyer and Liang (2006) noted that in addition to domestic settings, elder abuse occurs in nursing homes. They stated that occurrences of institutional abuse are relatively small compared to incidences of violence that occur in the home. The reason is that it is estimated that 4.5% of the population age 65 and older live in nursing homes. Dong, Simon, de Leon, Beck,McCann, Farran, Lauman and Evans (2011) cited that the U.S. National Research Council found that there needs to be a comprehensive study of this issue is impacting the country. Dong (2012) found that one out of ten older adults have experienced some elder abuse. Dong’s study also revealed that one in twenty-five cases are reported to local authorities and agencies dedicated for protect the elderly. It is interesting to note the correlation between one’s medical or mental condition and elder abuse. It is believed that elder abuse may impact those suffering from either medical or mental condition (Dong, et al, 2014). It is important to note that Dong is a Gerontologist.
Nakanishi, Nakashima, Sakata, Tsuchiya and Takizawa (2013) noted that elder abuse is now considered a health issue because it is linked with mortality. In Japan, life expectancy has increased which means that it is an aging society, becoming vulnerable to elder abuse.
Peri, Fanslow, Hand and Parsons (2013) found that in New Zealand, researchers are conducting interviews with the elderly, their caregivers, and social service agencies on the impact of elder abuse in its country. They feel that they have not made the necessary strides to contend with this issue. They understand the impact of ageism and older persons’ rights correlate with elder abuse.
Financial Elder Abuse
The fastest growing types of elder abuse worldwide is financial elder abuse. It is estimated that one out of five seniors have experience some financial fraud (Kohl, et al., 2012). In a study by MetLife on Elder Financial Fraud, it showed that in the year 2008, it was estimated that seniors were defrauded in the amount of least $2.9 billion dollars This is a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in the prior year. It also showed seniors were pawns in Medicare and Medicaid scams. In addition, women were nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men. The majority of victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone and were in need of living assistance. The study revealed close to 60% of perpetrators were males. The majority of male perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 59 while most of the female perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 49. Perpetrators who were strangers often targeted victims with
Kemp and Mosqueda (2005) many seniors fall prey to contractors, brokers, attorneys, and salesmen. This study also showed that financial elder abuse will increase in the future for four reasons. One reason, that is the elder population, is growing since 1950. Secondly, seniors own the majority of wealth in the United States. Thirdly, mental and medical conditions and lack of adult children’s involvement make older adults vulnerable. And finally, technology and the lack of interest by many older adults, to keep abreast, will be to their detriment.
Elder Abuse in the United States
In the United States, there are organizations dedicated to the prevention and warning people of elder abuse. One such organization is the National Center for Elder Abuse Administration on Aging. The University of Calfornia, Irvine has a renowned program that works in conjunction with its Medical Center. They have several forensic centers focusing solely on the research, investigation and prevention of elder abuse. The Acierno, Hernandez, Amstadter, Resnick, Steve, Muzzy & Kilpatrick’s (2010 ) study showed that in the United States,that abuse of the elderly is prevalent. The study also found that social support with prevention initiatives could have significant public health concerns.
Quinn and Benson (2012) estimated that there may be more than five million seniors who are abused. Their research further showed that the abused does not feel safe in his/her environment. This has an impact that senior’s wellness.
Kohl, Sanders and Blumenthal (2012) stated that the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee has been focused on the issue of elder abuse for over last thirty years. At the March Committee hearing,
Mickey Rooney testified about how he was mistreatment by a family member. His words were: “Each one is devastating in its right. Many times, sadly, as with my situation, the elder abuse involves a family member. When that happens, you feel scared, disappointed, angry, and you can’t believe this is happening to you. You feel overwhelmed. The strength, you need to fight it, is complicated. You’re afraid, but you’re also thinking about your other family members. You’re thinking about the potential criticism of your family and friends. They may not want to accept the dysfunction that you need to share. Because you love your family, and for other reasons, you might feel hesitant to come forward. You might not be able to make rational decisions. What other people see as generosity may, in reality, be the exploitation, manipulation and, sadly, emotional blackmail of older, more vulnerable members of the American public”. The Elder Justice Act, signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010, provides federal resources to prevent, investigate, treat and if necessary, prosecute elder abuse cases. This Act is included in the Affordable Care Act.