According to the Administration on Aging (AOA), the senior population, 65 or older, has grown 18% since 2000 and is expected to double by 2025. A lot of seniors fall into poverty because of healthcare cost. Some are forced to rely on their children or other family members for shelter and care because they do not have the proper insurance to cover long-term care due to illness or other disabilities. As a result, some of these people fall victim to abuse and neglect. The following charts show statistics released in 2013 based on data collected in 2010 in the United States:
However, abuse and neglect is not just a problem in the United States but worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, based on limited research of developed countries, abuse occurs in 10% of the elder population. It is hard to gauge exact numbers because incidents go largely unreported. A recent case of unreported neglect and subsequent death occurred in Australia to 88-year-old Cynthia Thoresen. Cynthia Thoresen died with a broken leg that went untreated for almost three months. Her daughter Marguerite Thoresen was caring for her. According to the Associated Press (AP) article via Huffington Post, no one had seen or heard from Cynthia but no one went to check on her either. Cynthia had all but vanished from the system. No recent records of doctor’s visits or prescriptions could be found beyond 2003. The inquiry into Marguerite’s handling of her mothers care did not hold her liable because they could not find any malice on her part. Being a caregiver can be overwhelming and Cynthia’s daughter just was not equipped to handle the task. She did not have the means or the resources to help her Mother properly.
On the local front, Lynn Milam is primary caregiver for the Father, a retired Army Veteran. You can tell Lynn is a great example of love and sacrifice in caring for her Father with limited resources. She is an only child so the responsibility of his care falls on her shoulders alone. Lynn feels the best place for him is his home and he can get the best care from her. Looking around the spotless house, you can tell Lynn does a fantastic job of caring for her Father. She gets up before the sun to make him breakfast, clean the house, and get his fitness routine going. Lynn transports him to the doctor several times a week to the VA and has now begun to take him to a private doctor because the VA can no longer treat his (undisclosed) condition. According to Lynn, “Living in a rural town puts us at a disadvantage because there is limited support and no major agency offices where I can turn to for help.” The closest town to where Lynn lives and cares for her father is 60 miles away. Lynn said, “The Veterans Hospital (VA) does not give any assistance past the free retirement facility that consist of a bed and a curtain to separate my Dad from a roommate.” “If he wants a private room, it is $1500 per month.” With large medical bills Lynn’s Dad can’t afford a traditional nursing facility and she will not allow him to live in such a bare-bones environment. (You can watch the full video of Lynn’s story here:).
However, what do you do and where do you turn if you suspect a senior is being abused or neglected or you just need assistance in caring for these vulnerable individuals? Anna Moore, CEO/Executive Program Director Genuine Community Care Inc., which provides services for Intellectual or Developmentally Disabled Adults and Children (IDD), gave good information regarding reporting suspected abuse and neglect of seniors. Whether it be a family caregiver or an agency, the rules for care are state regulated and guidelines must be followed in the care of seniors and IDD individuals. According to Anna, if abuse and neglect is suspected or someone needs assistance, they can call the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS). If it is a senior involved, the Adult Protective Services (APS) division under DFPS will take the report and start an investigation. Anna says, “Once the call is made, APS will make an unannounced visit to the location where the individual is living.” “Depending on the severity of the reported incidents, they will arrive immediately or within 24 hours.” Anna advised that all reports are anonymous and if follow-up is needed, APS will contact the individual who made the report. She said, “Once the investigation is completed, if the report is found substantiated, the senior is removed from that location and placed in protective custody until a hearing can be had.” Anna goes on to say if the report is unfounded the case is closed. However, Anna says, “If something bad happens to the individual after an unconfirmed report, then the liability falls on the investigating agency.”
Here are some additional resources to contact if you need assistance in caregiving or finding a facility for your elderly family member: