The population of older Americans (age 65 and older) has increased significantly in recent years as the Baby Boomer generation began entering their retirement years. Moreover, experts tell us that the increase in the older population will continue in the years to come. Sadly, with the increase in the number of seniors has come a corresponding increase in instances of elder abuse throughout the nation. If you are a senior yourself, or have a loved one who is, the elder law attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP offer tips to help prevent elder abuse and spot the signs of elder abuse.
Elder Abuse Facts and Figures
Accurate facts and figures relating to elder abuse in the U.S. are not easy to gather for several reasons, including non-uniform reporting requirements, victims being ashamed and unwilling to report the abuse, and victims who fear reprisals if they do speak out. Despite the difficulties gathering data, there are some statistics showing how bad the elder abuse problem is in the U.S., including the following:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse.
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim.
- In over 60 percent of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two-thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.
- More than 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90 percent report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected.
- The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year. Ten percent were cases unrelated to financial exploitation.
Steps You Can Take to Prevent Elder Abuse
Prevention is obviously preferable to recognizing that a loved one has already been victimized. Toward that end, the following steps may help you prevent a loved one from becoming a victim of elder abuse:
- Talk to your loved one. Have an open discussion about the subject and explain that a victim should never be ashamed nor fear reporting abuse. Encourage your loved one to confide in you if anything does not feel right with a caregiver.
- Do not automatically trust anyone. Remember, over half of all perpetrators are family members. Institute a system of checks and balances within the family.
- Research long-term care facilities. There are caring and compassionate facilities; however, there are also LTC facilities where abuse is tolerated and/or ignored. Take your time and research any potential facility.
- Screen caregivers. Do not count on a service or company to pre-screen home health workers. Do your own background check before allowing them into your loved one’s home.
- Be present. Whether your loved one is in a LTC facility or being cared for at home, pop up unannounced at least once a week. Predators are less likely to victimize someone if people are watching and care what happens.
- Monitor finances. Even if your loved one is still capable of managing his/her finances, you should monitor them as well because you may catch something your loved one does not.
- Consider guardianship. You may need to act quickly if you suspect abuse. Having the legal authority to do so may be critical. Consider obtaining guardianship over your loved one ahead of time in case you need that authority.
Contact an Elder Law Attorney
For additional information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about preventing elder abuse, contact an experienced elder law attorney at Nash Bean Ford & Brown LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.