Nursing homes and other long-term facilities care for elderly residents and afford them opportunities to develop social relationships. These homes provide physical, social and emotional comfort for residents unable to care for themselves. However according to data collected by National Center on Elder Abuse, abuse in nursing homes is both common and shockingly underreported.
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What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse (also called mistreatment or neglect) is defined as intentional actions to cause harm or create risk of injury. This also includes failure to protect an elderly person from harm. Elder abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional or financial. It is perpetrated by family and caregivers. In short, it happens everywhere.
The growing problem
The 2010 Census recorded 40.3 million people over the age of 65, the largest proportion in U.S. history. It is projected that by 2050, people ages 65 and over will comprise 20 percent of the population. A 2000 study that interviewed 2,000 nursing homes found that 44 percent of residents experienced elder abuse. As the number of elderly Americans increases, there will be more instances of elder mistreatment.
Abuse or neglect is particularly acute for elderly that suffer from dementia or are disabled. These individuals are reliant upon their caregivers. For example, a 2009 study found that 33 percent of institutionalized adult women experienced interpersonal violence. That same study noted that 21 percent of women without disabilities also reported abuse. A different study conducted in 2010, found that 47 percent of American elders that suffer from dementia were mistreated by their caregivers.
Abuse also takes a serious physical, mental, psychological and spiritual toll, which further exacerbates chronic illnesses like arthritis, bowel issues, high-blood pressure and heart problems. Elders that are abused are more prone to sickness and injury which results in a 300 percent higher likelihood of death. It is estimated that elder abuse costs an additional $5.3 billion a year in medical expenses. Moreover, elder abuse victim lost an estimated $2.9 billion in 2009 due to financial exploitation.
The number of elderly will only continue to grow. This means that long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, will continue to grow in importance. These facilities care for the most neglected segment of the population and so fulfill a critical role in society. Unfortunately, until the elderly are afforded adequate protections, these statistics will continue to go up.