It is mind-boggling that there are people in this world who so easily take advantage of vulnerable older adults. Yet, elder abuse – psychological, physical, and financial – is an unfortunate reality. The CDC estimates it affects one in every 10 community-dwelling adults age 60 and older.
The problem is likely much greater. For every reported case of abuse, approximately 23 others are not reported. Financial exploitation of older adults is the most prevalent form, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. One study found that self-reported financial exploitation happens at a rate of 41 per every 1,000 older adults surveyed. That number may be higher because many older adults are reluctant to admit they were scammed. Continue reading
There are plenty of aging-related stories on the horizon for 2015. Here are just some issues and ideas to get you started:
The once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging is scheduled for sometime in mid-2015 – a date is yet to be finalized. It’s the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference will focus on four key areas:
- Retirement security
- Healthy aging
- Long-term services and supports
- Elder justice
Look for plenty of updates on the conference by spring.
Issues include financial security, affordable housing, aging-in-place and community-based support services. According to Leading Age Magazine, boomers are poorly prepared when it comes to savings. How are the 50- and 60-somethings in your community preparing for retirement? Or are they? Continue reading
Institutionalized without justification. Stripped of all rights and dignity. No, it’s not some tale out of Guantanamo. It’s happening in cities and towns all over the U.S. Many frail, impaired, or just “unwanted” older adults are shut away, separated from their life savings, forced to endure countless indignities, and in some cases, lose their right to self-determination. It’s legal, but elder advocates say it’s another form of elder abuse.
The treatment of Sarasota’s most vulnerable is the focus of a terrific series on elder guardianship from Barbara Peters Smith at the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald Tribune. Her profiles of these elders whose lives were forever changed will make you want to reach out and speak with seniors and families in your own community. Any one of these stories could be that of your grandmother or mother or brother.
Finding the impetus for this series came about quite by chance, as Smith describes in her “How I did it” piece. It involved many, many phone calls, emails and old fashioned footwork led to hard scrutiny of a system that appeared out of control. Despite many challenges, including how to verify many of the stories she heard, Smith found a pattern that was hard to ignore, and did the due diligence necessary to verify and vet the information used. A phone call, an editor who listened, and a woman desperate to leave a facility she didn’t want to be in provided the appropriate news hook.
When Smith met two women at a seminar on elder fraud, she had no idea what that conversation would lead to. By listening and by using her journalistic instincts, she uncovered a problem larger than she ever imagined. By keeping your antenna up and thinking “big picture,” you also may find a great news story hidden in a seemingly random conversation.
Image by Judy Baxter via flickr.
Did you happen to catch the new report from the CDC – “The State of Aging and Health in America (PDF)?” This 60-page analysis provides a snapshot of the health and well being of older adults, including care and behaviors that impact premature death and disability, as well as the role of optimal mobility in healthy aging.
The report points out that two of every three older Americans have multiple chronic conditions, and treatment for this population accounts for 66 percent of the country’s health care budget. Americans are living longer – but are they living better?
While most states have met at least some of the Healthy People 2020 goals, many lag behind on others – notably, improving preventive care such as flu and pneumonia vaccines, long-term care services and support, increasing the number of geriatric care specialists and tackling elder abuse. Long-term care is headed for a crisis, blogs Betty Ann Bowser on the PBS’s The Rundown. Forbes says the long-term care system is “crumbling.” Continue reading
Think of a vulnerable older woman whose caregiver empties out her bank account, or a cognitively compromised homebound older man whose estranged family never visits, leaving him entirely alone and without basic necessities. Think of someone in a nursing home whose painful bed sore isn’t adequately treated or who is attacked by a mentally ill resident living at the same facility.
All of those are forms of elder abuse and, while it’s not entirely clear how often such problems occur, recent research indicates that 11 percent of Americans 60 and older – nearly 6 million people – may suffer some type of abuse or neglect each year. Only a small fraction of cases are reported as shame and secrecy surround these experiences.
Elder abuse will be in the news soon: In June, the secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services announced that it would make available $5.5 million in grants to fund innovative programs designed to prevent elder abuse. Recipients of those grants are due to be named at the end of this month.
Judith Graham, AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, explains more about elder abuse, who is most vulnerable, the state of legislation and funding to help protect seniors. She also includes a list of resources for reporters.
The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s new series, Voiceless & Vulnerable, looks at nursing home abuse in the state. In the investigation (how they did it), the reporters focused on the eight serious nursing home complaints (about 7.5 percent of the total) from between 2006 and 2009 which the state attorney general has taken an unusually long time to resolve. They’ve been pending for an average of 19 months, and officials say each unresolved case can be blamed on unique factors and not on systemic issues.
In addition, investigators’ high case loads, staffing shortages and coordination with other law enforcement agencies have slowed some investigations, said (Shelley Johnson, spokeswoman for the state AG). Other factors include high turnover of nursing home staff and difficulty finding witnesses.
Overall, few such cases are prosecuted, and the ones that do go to court don’t often result in heavy sentences.
In addition to a discussion of how other states are fighting elder abuse (sidebar), the Herald-Leader package also includes graphics about the investigation process and how to report abuse, and a searchable database of serious nursing home complaints.