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Online Training Lesson #1: Fast Facts on Elder Abuse

Useful Fast Facts

Fast Facts on Elder Abuse

The aging of the population in North America is certainly noticeable in many churches where the pews are filled by men and women who are 65 years of age and older. By 2041 more than 23% of the population in North America will be over 65 years old, compared to 12% in 1995. The “Baby Boomers” are aging and life expectancy is increasing.

Abuse of older adults is not a new problem, but with increased awareness in our communities it is one that is coming out from behind the closed doors of silence, denial and isolation. Elder abuse is extremely complex – it may involve physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial/material exploitation, neglect, spiritual abuse (ridicule, disrespect, using beliefs inappropriately, etc.) or some combination of these forms. The abuse and neglect of older adults can occur in the home and in community programs such as recreation centers and adult day programs. It can happen in institutions such as senior citizens’ homes, hospitals, nursing homes and chronic care facilities.

The National Center on Elder Abuse delineates several risk factors for elder abuse:

  1. Domestic violence grown old – the pattern of exerting power and control by one partner over another that was established within a younger marital relationship may continue into older age;
  2. Personal problems of abusers – adult children, particularly if they live with their elderly parent, may be dependent for financial assistance, housing, and other forms of support. If those adult children are experiencing personal problems, drug or alcohol dependency, or perhaps mental health issues, they may require support. These problems, and the needs associated with them, can lead to abusing their supporter;
  3. Elders living with others and those who are isolated may be targeted for abuse. Living with someone else provides the opportunity for abuse in a private situation. The elderly may also be isolated from their network of community, family and friends by their abuser in an effort to hide the abuse;
  4. Other factors that may indeed contribute to elder abuse include (1) caregiver stress brought on by the burden of care; (2) personal characteristics of the elder person such as dementia or problematic behavior, and; (3) the learned behavior of a violent response to situations.

Some U.S. statistics :

  • In 1996 the median age of elder abuse victims was 77.9 years, the majority of victims were female, and 66.4 percent of them were white, while 18.7 percent were black;
  • Adult children are the most frequent abusers of the elderly; other family members and spouses ranked as the next most likely abusers;
  • Neglect is the most common form of elder maltreatment in domestic settings;
  • Data on elder abuse in domestic settings suggest that 1 in 14 incidents come to the attention of authorities;
  • According to the best available estimates, between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.

Some Canadian statistics:

  • In 2003, older women were found to be more likely than their male counterparts to be victims of family violence. Close to four out of ten senior female victims were assaulted by a family member, while this was the case for 20 % of senior male victims;
  • It is estimated that 10% of people with dementia, over the age of 65, are sexually abused;
  • The most common form of abuse against the mainstream elderly population is emotional abuse, followed by financial abuse;
  • A detailed profile of all homicides in 2004 revealed that half of the victims killed were in their own home and were over the age of 60.