Most people know that elder abuse happens; I did. I knew it was a pretty common thing, too. It’s nearly an epidemic and I’m looking for input on what to do.
You see, I do a lot of research about all kinds of topics related to aging. I read through a large number of news items and articles every day. A while back, I started keeping an eye on the number of times I saw items about elder abuse: physical or mental abuse, neglect, exploitation or other situations where someone who is older is being mistreated or taken advantage of in some way.
A few days ago, I made note of more than 196 news items about elderly abuse. (That’s not all of them, of course; I just stopped counting.)
I wasn’t even sure what to do with that.
Most of the time I write, I try to do what any good writer would do: identify the problem in a way that resonates with the reader, explore it a little, then propose some sort of resolution that provides benefit. I just can’t wrap my mind around this situation, though.
Why does it happen anyway?
It’s easy to say that some people are broken. I get that. They are the ones who are doing wrong. They make a choice to take advantage of someone who can’t protect themselves. That’s true, of course.
But, I also think we’re broken, too. So often, we don’t identify with an issue like elderly abuse if it doesn’t affect us personally. We give ourselves permission to ignore it. It is like we say to ourselves, “If it doesn’t hurt me, I’m not going to think about it.” Or, for some, “If it hurts too much to think about, I won’t.”
That’s the blind eye and I’m as guilty as anyone.
How bad is elder abuse?
According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, older people that suffer violent abuse have an increased chance of health care problems, such as bone or joint problems, digestive problems, depression or anxiety, chronic pain, high blood pressure and heart problems.
“Elders who experienced [any kind of] abuse, had a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who had not been abused.” (National Center on Elder Abuse.)
Elder abuse of all kinds can have a negative effect on the physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being of victims. In 2009, it was estimated that the financial loss experienced by victims were $2.9 billion. And, medical costs resulting from abuse added more than $5.3 billion to U.S. annual health expenditures.
How can we stop it?
I’ve been doing some reading about what some communities are doing to stop elder abuse. I’ve also read up on legislation aimed at protecting older Americans. But, efforts are fragmented and, in many cases, laws go unenforced for one reason or another.
This problem is huge. Elderly folks are being hurt every day in the United States and the occurrence of abuse is growing at an alarming rate.
Obviously, I don’t have all the answers, But, I’m willing to bet that some of you know of things being done in your communities.
Why not share it below? If you know of someone who is doing something to put a stop to elder abuse, then tell us in the comments below. And, please share this with your friends. Maybe they know something, too.
I would like to document as much as I can find and share it so we can all benefit from the collective knowledge.