Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Elder Abuse and Neglect

A Very Prevalent Problem: Elder Abuse and Neglect
While it does not get much play in the news, elder abuse is still a very prevalent problem. This could not be truer than in Southern California with our large number of older adults. Often misconceptions about elder abuse lead to difficulties in recognizing, reporting and addressing the problem.
Abuse of older adults can take many forms. While physical injury can occur, it is not as common as neglecting, psychologically abusing, or financially taking advantage of older adults. Elder neglect can be as obvious as denying food or health services, or a caregiver failing to fulfill some other less obvious responsibility. Self-neglect, when one threatens his or her own health or safety, can also be very difficult to identify and address.
The incidence of elder abuse is another question that is difficult to answer. The reason is that there really has not been a lot of scientific study into elder abuse. The best data is from the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study (NEAIS) done in 1996. Assuming that reported cases of abuse were just the tip of the iceberg, the NEAIS study reported more than a half million cases of elder abuse in 1996 consisting of an overall rate of 1.3 percent of the total population. Other smaller studies put that number at closer to 5-8 percent. That translates to tens of thousands of cases of elder abuse in Southern California this year alone, if not more.
When we look at institutions such as hospitals or nursing homes, the best data comes from a 1998 survey of nurses in New Hampshire nursing homes. A scary 36 percent reported witnessing physical abuse, and 81 percent reported witnessing psychological abuse.
While any older adult can be a victim of abuse, the more likely victims were women (60-75 percent of victims). Adults over 80 years of age were also up to three times more likely to suffer from abuse or neglect. Dementia or other medical conditions requiring more care also put patients at greater risk.
While we like to think that perpetrators of elder abuse are evil strangers, the reality is that relatives commit as much as 90 percent of elder abuse. Adult children make up the largest percentage of abusers in all types of elder abuse.
Signs of abuse can include bruises or injuries that are not consistent with routine accidents, broken glasses, unexpected disappearance of funds or valuables, unpaid bills even when resources are available, and unsafe or unclean living conditions.
In California, contact Steven Peck's Premier Legal toll free at 1-866-999-9085 to talk to an experienced elder abuse and neglect attorney. You do not need proof, just a suspicion, and the law provides immunity for anyone filing a report in good faith. You can even make a report anonymously. Don't be afraid!!!

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