Elder Abuse, A Disgraceful Thing

J. Harris

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A Lady on a BenchPhoto by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

1 in 10 older Americans are victims

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15 every year. Elder abuse is underreported because in many communities there is no social support system in place that would make it easier for your elder mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and grandfathers to report it.

As few as 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities.

What is elder abuse? “Abuse” is any willful act or threatened act by a relative, caregiver, or household member which causes or is likely to cause significant impairment to a vulnerable adult’s physical, mental, or emotional health.

Elder abuse is a serious problem in the United States. The available information is an underestimate of the problem because the number of nonfatal injuries is limited to older adults who are treated in emergency departments. The information doesn’t include those treated by other providers or those that do not need or do not seek treatment. 

Additionally, many cases are not reported because elders are afraid or unable to tell police, friends, or family about the violence. Victims have to decide whether to tell someone they are being hurt or continue being abused by someone they depend upon or care for deeply.

Elder abuse is common. Abuse, including neglect and exploitation, is experienced by about 1 in 10 people aged 60 and older who live at home. From 2002 to 2016, more than 643,000 older adults were treated in the emergency department for nonfatal assaults and over 19,000 homicides occurred.

Some groups have higher rates of abuse than others. Compared with women, men had higher rates of both nonfatal assaults and homicides. The rate for nonfatal assaults increased more than 75% among men (2002–2016) and more than 35% among women (2007–2016). The estimated homicide rate for men increased 7% from 2010 to 2016. Compared to non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Black or African American persons, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Natives, and Hispanic or Latino persons have higher homicide rates (2002–2016).

Overall and firearm-specific older adult homicide rates increased between 2014 and 2017. Of the 6188 victims, 62% were male. The perpetrator was an intimate partner in 39% of firearm homicides and 12% of non-firearm homicides. Common contexts of firearm homicides were familial/intimate partner problems, robbery/burglary, argument, and illness-related (e.g. the homicide was perpetrated to end the suffering of an ill victim, both victim and perpetrator had an illness, or the perpetrator had a mental illness). Source:

Preventing Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. An older…www.cdc.gov

Being elder and homeless go hand-in-hand in south Florida. I have seen elder people in wheelchairs begging at red lights. It is an uncomfortable feeling seeing this.

I took the same route every day to take the boys to work at Subway when we first moved here, 2014. I never saw anything like it. My boys and an elder/homeless lady made friends, as they saw her every day, so they drummed up a conversation one day while I was in the car. She said that her tent and belongings had been washed away by the recent downpour and she had nowhere to go. I remembered the boys had a practically brand new tent that they only used once. I told her she could have it so we brought it to her the next day. She was very thankful and I was glad we could help her. There is so much of this sort of thing here.

To me that’s abuse. She shouldn’t be out on the road begging for money in the extreme heat. We found that she used to be a chef but couldn’t use those skills now since she had lived on the street for so long. Why? Because no one would give her a chance anymore. Living on the street changes your appearance and personality. No one will trust you anymore and think you are a thief now.

Elder abuse comes in many forms which could happen without the person being abused becoming aware of it. People that are being pushed aside and not heard or not acknowledged for being there is abuse. Being upset with an elder person because they cannot afford something and you have to pay for it is abuse. We really need to be more respectful to the elder population. They don’t mean us any harm and if they are reacting, they are reacting because of the stimulus of abuse in the air. They are only protecting themselves from nasty remarks.

I had this very thing happen to me. When that person was finally gone it was like a heavy cloud had lifted from my eyes. I even asked my boyfriend, “Where have I been?” 

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I usually write about a lot of subject matter from my own personal life to animal behavior. Everything in between. I have been writing for over two years but have always been a writer and avid reader. I lived in Atlanta, GA for sixty years then moved to South Florida and it was a huge change for me. I write truth as I see it in hopes it will help others.

Plantation, FL
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