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Elder abuse continues to threaten senior Americans

Data from the 2010 Census determined that people 65 and older comprise 13 percent of the total population of the United States; the figure for Pennsylvania is about the same. This group of people born between 1946 and 1964 long ago became known as the "baby boom generation." This population's steady aging means that increasing numbers of them will need the services of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Sadly, members of this population are vulnerable to those who are charged with caring for them. New data every year shows that mistreatment, neglect and abuse of senior citizens is growing across the United States. Elder mistreatment - the deliberate actions of caregivers or others to harm or injure seniors or fail to meet their needs - is often undetected because many family members do not know how to detect abuse.

Using statistical data from the National Center on Elder Abuse, one recent study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are ever addressed by law enforcement authorities. Programs involved in adult protective services estimate that the majority of cases of neglect, abuse and exploitation go untreated or undetected each year.

When it comes to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a 2000 study indicated that 44 percent of seniors staying at these facilities had been abused and 95 percent neglected. Of particular concern are residents suffering from dementia; they are more likely to be abused by their caregivers.

The growing problem of elder abuse and nursing home neglect will continue to seriously affect seniors. Those who are abused are at higher risk of dying than those who are not. Several research studies have also pointed out that victims of elder abuse suffer psychological distress as well as worsening medical conditions, higher blood pressure, heart problems and depression or anxiety.

Source: Ncea.aoa.gov, "Statistics/Data," Accessed July 24, 2014

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