Elder Abuse

 


Although elder abuse has occurred for centuries, it wasn't until the late 1970s -- early 1980s that elder abuse victims received national attention. In 1981 the Select Committee on Aging held hearings in which victimized elders gave firsthand testimony of their experiences. The report concluded that elder abuse is a full scale national problem and exists with a frequency few dare to imagine. It is estimated that 1.5 to 1.84 million Americans are victims of elder abuse annually. Arizona Adult Protective Services handles approximately 10,000 cases a year in Maricopa County.  To address this issue, the Mesa Police Department offers training on elder abuse, community education programs, and works closely with Adult Protective Services and the Office of the Arizona Attorney General.


Elder Abuse is Rarely Reported

One of the obstacles in determining an accurate number of elder abuse victims is the fact that elder abuse is rarely reported. Estimates show that only 1 in 14 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities. The reasons why this abuse is rarely reported include:

Fear

  • Fear of retaliation by the abuser.
  • Fear of not being believed.
  • Fear of being institutionalized, or separated from family and familiar things.
  • Fear of the criminal justice system.
  • Fear of loneliness.

 
Protect the Abuser

  • Adult children and caregivers are often the abusers, and because of the guilt and shame in being abused by one's own child or by a trusted caregiver, the abuse is not reported.


Social Isolation

  • An isolated older victim may not know how or where to seek help. Elders often live alone, or with family members and don't interact with others in the community.


Self-Blame/Denial

  • Many victims do not seek help because they either blame themselves for the abuse, or they tolerate and accept the abuse.


Inability to Report

  • Mental impairments: Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia may cause memory loss and impair the ability to communicate effectively.
  • Physical impairments may affect the victim's ability to get to the phone or leave the home to report abuse, or a stroke may affect their ability to communicate.

 

Types of Elder Abuse & the Warning Signs 
 
  • Physical Abuse: the infliction of physical pain or injury, and/or use of physical restraints that result in physical pain or impairment.
    Warning signs: bruises, welts, lacerations, fractures, burns, hair missing from being pulled, abrasions from physical confinement, over- or under- medicated, unexpected deterioration of health; victim is agitated or fearful, caregiver refuses to let elder have visitors.
  • Sexual Abuse: non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person.
    Warning signs: unexplained genital infections or sexually transmitted diseases, torn or bloody underclothes, difficulty walking or sitting; victim is withdrawn, fears touching, shameful, anxious.
  • Psychological/Emotional Abuse: infliction of mental pain, anguish or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.
    Warning signs: fearful, eating disorders, self-medication with alcohol or prescription medications, depression, agitation, withdrawn, anger, low self-esteem.
  • Financial Abuse/Exploitation: illegal or improper use of funds, property, or assets.
    Warning signs:
    unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills, unexplained or sudden withdrawal of money from accounts, disparity between assets and living conditions, unusual interest by family member in an elder's assets, changes in the elder's will/other documents, improper use of guardianship, conservatorship, or power of attorney.
  • Neglect: failure or refusal to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an elderly person.
    Warning signs: bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene, unsanitary/unsafe living conditions, improper use of medication; victim appears detached, unresponsive, helpless.

 

 A warning sign of every type of abuse is when
the elder reports being abused.

 

Characteristics of Victims
 
  • Majority are 75+ years of age.
  • Two-thirds are female.
  • Have one or more physical or mental impairments.
  • Often widowed or divorced and socially isolated.
  • Usually live with the abuser.

 

Characteristics of Abusers
  • 90% of abusers are known to the victim.
  • More than two-thirds are relatives of the victim.
  • May be socially isolated, possibly substance abusers or persons with poor employment records.
  • May be forced to provide care, and are unprepared for the responsibility and related stress.
  • May be financially or emotionally dependent on the elder.

 

How Can You Help?

Study the warning signs of the types of abuse, and share this  information with friends, relatives and neighbors.

Report suspected abuse to the Mesa Police Department, or call Arizona Adult Protective Services' Adult Abuse Hotline at 1-877-SOS-ADULT (1-877-767-2385).  The elderly deserve honor and respect, not abuse.

 

Arizona State Statutes Pertaining to Elder Abuse

Arizona has been very active in legislating elder abuse. Several statutes are now in place to protect the victims of abuse, and to prosecute the abusers.

Arizona State Statutes (www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp)

ARS 13-3623 Child or Vulnerable Adult Abuse (www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/13/03623.htm)

ARS 46-451 Definitions; program goals (www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/46/00451.htm)

ARS 46-452 Protective Services Worker; powers and duties (www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/46/00452.htm)

ARS 46-452.01 Office of State Long Term Care Ombudsman (www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/46/00452-01.htm)

ARS 46-454 Mandatory Reporting Statute; duty to report abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults (www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/46/00454.htm)

ARS 46-455 Neglect (www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/46/0455.htm)

ARS 46-456 Financial Exploitation (www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/46/00456.htm)

 

Other Arizona Agencies Involved in Elder Abuse Investigation

Area Agency on Aging
24-hour Senior HELPLINE
602-264-HELP / 602-264-4357

  • Maricopa Elder Abuse Prevention Alliance (MEAPA)
  • Long Term Care Ombudsman
  • Elder Emergency Housing Program for victims of abuse and late-life domestic violence


Medicaid/AHCCCS Fraud Control Unit
602-542-3881
Investigate fraud by providers in the AHCCCS & Long Term Care systems

Department of Health Services
Office of Long Term Care
602-364-2690

  

Internet Links on Elder Abuse

 

If you have any questions or if you would like to arrange for someone to speak to your group about elder abuse, please contact:

Karen Stegenga, Crime Prevention Officer
Mesa Police Department
480-644-5014
karen.stegenga@mesaaz.gov