Only one in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported to authorities

The number of elderly people in the United States is on the rise. There are now three times as many people living to the age of 90 or longer than there were 30 years ago and the number is expected to be four times as high by 2050. In total, 13% of the American population is 65-years-old or older, or approximately 40.3 million individuals.

With the fast-growing senior citizen population in New York and across the country, there has also been an increase in elder abuse. Whether it is physical, sexual or financial abuse, it is often the senior citizen's caretakers that are responsible for such heinous actions. What makes these crimes particularly horrible is that only one out of 14 cases of elder abuse is actually reported.

According to USA Today, one of the reasons why so few cases are reported is that elder abuse is often difficult to detect. For those senior citizens who live in a nursing home, it is nearly impossible for their children or grandchildren to always be on the lookout for signs of physical abuse. While family members may not have the resources or medical expertise to properly care for their loved ones themselves, they should not have to worry that a nursing home is harming or abusing their relatives.

Elder abuse shelters have started springing up across the country in an effort to provide care for senior citizens who were previously abused at the hands of their caretakers. The first long-term care facility started in New York seven years ago, but several new shelters have copied the model to provide more localized care. They aim to provide medical care, legal and social work services, and social and educational programs for senior citizens.

Making the decision to transfer care of a loved one to a nursing home is a difficult decision in itself, but it should not be made even more difficult by the fear that a caretaker will abuse that loved one. Nursing homes are required to provide safe, secure places for family members and when they don't, they can be held accountable for the pain a loved one suffers.

Source: USA Today, "As USA grays, elder abuse risk and need for shelters grow," Haya El Nasser, Jan. 10, 2012

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