As noted several weeks ago, October is officially known as “Residents’ Rights Month” — a time to share information about the rights of seniors living in all forms of senior housing facilities. Many New York residents have heard horror stories from friends, family members, and acquaintances about inadequate care at nursing homes. This is actually a spur that leads many to take matters into their own hands, crafting an elder law estate plan to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Regardless, we can all agree that abuse of seniors is never acceptable, no matter what the setting. In the spirit of raising awareness of this problem, it is worth taking a look at an Elder Abuse Fact Sheet that was released as part of Resident’s Rights Month. With even a cursory glance it is clear that this abuse affects millions of seniors and the problem is only due to rise in the coming years.
The fact sheet points out the complexity in identifying the scope of the problem with precision, as most mistreatment goes unreported. Seniors in nursing homes develop pressure sores that are ignored. Elderly residents lose their home to scammers with no one ever finding out. And many similar stories go unheard.
However, the best research on the subject posits that anywhere between 4% and 6% of all seniors experience some form of abuse within their own home. In long-term care facilities, a shocking 36% of caregivers themselves report seeing mistreatment of residents.
In short, this is a widespread problem that some have called an epidemic. The concerns are only rising, as the senior population skyrockets in the coming years. In the three decades between 1995 and 2025 the total population of those over 60 years old will double.
Advocates point out that certain seniors are far more at risk of falling victim to abuse than others. Most notably, seniors who live in “strained” family settings without legal protections are most vulnerable. In these situations, a senior can become isolated from others and grow dependent on those embroiled in intrafamily conflict. Coupled with that risk factor is social isolation. Whether a senior lives alone or is limited from social interaction by a caregiver, isolation often leads to neglected in silence.
Interestingly, men are just as likely as women to be abused in percentage terms. However, elderly women are affected in larger numbers. Women are more likely to be widowed, living alone, at which point they are at particularly high risk of isolation and being exploited for their resources.
Feel free to take a look at the full fact sheet to get a good primer on the problem.