Elder Abuse Statistics
Elder abuse is a crime that impacts a staggering number of America’s senior citizens. You may think that elder abuse will never happen to your loved one, but the statistics say otherwise. As researchers learn more about elder abuse and how to track it in nursing homes, hospices, hospitals and care centers, the number of known victims continues to grow. Keeping up with the latest information about elder abuse can help you be more aware of this problem and how to prevent it.
What Are Some Key Facts About Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is when someone knowingly or intentionally harms an older adult. Below are several key facts about elder abuse in the U.S. as of 2022:
- As of 2020, there were 54.1 million older adults in the U.S. By 2040, this estimate is expected to climb to about 80 million. It is projected that by 2030, there will be a 50 percent increase in the number of older adults who require nursing home care. (Source: the National Center on Elder Abuse.)
- At least 1 in 10 adults aged 65 and older experience elder abuse in a given year. (Source: the U.S. Department of Justice.)
- Some reports put the prevalence of elder abuse closer to 15 or 16 percent, or about 1 in 6 elders. The real number of abused, neglected and mistreated senior citizens is likely much higher, as this issue is largely underreported and misunderstood.
- Underreporting can be caused by a number of factors, including fear of retaliation, shame or embarrassment, dependency on the assailant, being unaware of what abuse and neglect are, and being unable to come forward due to physical or cognitive impairments.
- Seniors with physical disabilities, mental or cognitive impairment, and dementia are more likely to become targets of elder abuse and neglect.
- Rates of elder abuse are higher in institutions, including nursing homes. One study found that two in three nursing home staff members reported that they committed abuse in the past year. (Source: the World Health Organization.)
- Rates of elder abuse increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to the fact that seniors were isolated from their loved ones.
- Elder abuse is highly traumatic and can result in health problems such as physical injuries and illnesses, a decrease in mental health, frequent hospitalizations, diminished quality of life, depression and suicide, and increased mortality.
Elder abuse is committed most often by someone in a position of trust and power over the elderly individual, such as a caregiver, nursing home staff member or family member. Researchers are only now beginning to understand this crime and how to look for it.
Elder Abuse Statistics by Abuse Type
There are multiple types of elder abuse, including neglect, financial exploitation, psychological abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse. Below are some of the latest statistics on each type. Keep in mind that many of these numbers are modest estimates, with the true numbers being most likely much higher.
Caregiver neglect is the failure to provide the care that an elder needs. This may refer to medical care, physical care, emotional care and psychosocial care.
- The prevalence rate of elder neglect is around 4.2 percent.
- The rate of unreported cases of caregiver neglect is estimated at 1:57, making it the most underreported type of elder abuse.
- According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, neglect accounted for 14 percent of complaints against nursing homes.
Caregiver neglect can lead to poor elder health, an increase in morbidity and mortality rates, bedsores and infections, and premature death.
Financial exploitation or abuse means someone taking advantage of a senior citizen for financial gain, such as through fraud, scams, deceit or intimidation.
- Prevalence rates estimate that about 6.8 percent of elder abuse cases involve financial exploitation.
- The underreporting rate for financial exploitation is 1:44.
- Every year, seniors lose at least $2.6 billion a year because of financial abuse.
- Elders with unemployed children or family members are at a greater risk of financial exploitation.
The consequences of elder financial exploitation can include financial ruin, the inability to pay for necessary care, significant emotional distress and suicide.
Psychological abuse can encompass emotional abuse, verbal abuse and mental abuse. It can involve yelling at, berating, insulting, threatening, harassing, humiliating or isolating a senior. Psychological abuse can cause great emotional distress for the victim.
- The prevalence rate for psychological abuse among the elderly is around 11.6 percent.
- The prevalence of psychological abuse in institutional settings is much higher – around 33.4 percent as reported by the elderly and 32.5 percent as reported by staff.
- The perpetrators of elder psychological or emotional abuse are statistically more likely to be caregivers than family members.
Since psychological abuse doesn’t leave physical marks, it is important for loved ones to speak often to the elderly to gauge their mood and mental health. Common signs of psychological abuse are withdrawal, a loss of interest in favorite hobbies, anxiety or irritability, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Physical elder abuse means intentionally physically harming a senior citizen, such as by striking, punching, kicking, pushing, pinching or burning a victim. Sexual abuse refers to elder sexual assault.
- Physical abuse accounts for an estimated 2.6 percent of all elder abuse cases. Sexual abuse has the lowest prevalence rate, at about 0.9 percent.
- Nearly 16,000 cases of elder sexual abuse in nursing homes have been reported since 2000. From 2013 to 2016, more than 1,000 nursing homes were cited for resident sexual abuse.
- Seniors who are physically abused are 300 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who are not abused.
- Family members are the most commonly identified perpetrators of elder physical abuse.
Allegations of physical elder abuse are the most likely to coexist with other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse, verbal abuse or financial exploitation. Physical and sexual abuse can also co-occur in the same victim.
Elder Abuse in California
According to the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, California has more than twice the number of elder abuse complaints as the national average (13 percent vs. 5 percent). Projections show a larger number of elderly individuals living in California in future years. This means an increase in the number of seniors who rely on nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The pressure on California nursing homes may lead to a surge in elder abuse, neglect and exploitation cases.
If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of elder abuse, contact Rose, Klein & Marias, LLP. We will explain your rights and legal options during a free case evaluation in Los Angeles.