Elder abuse represents a growing threat to Georgia residents

As the elderly population grows, reported cases of elder abuse are rising nationally and in Georgia, despite legal measures to reduce this abuse.

The elderly population in the U.S. has reached unprecedented levels and is still growing, as many people in Atlanta know. According to the Administration on Aging, in 2010, the U.S. Census found that more than 40 million adults - or 13.3 percent of the total population - were over age 65. Unfortunately, this growth means that an increasing number of people may face nursing home negligence and similar forms of elder abuse.

Elder abuse is any kind of deliberate caretaker action that results in harm to an elderly person, including neglect. Elder abuse may be financial, emotional or physical in nature. Sadly, data indicates that this form of abuse affects many Americans, and the problem may only become worse as the number of elderly adults and the demand on their caretakers increases.

A widespread, underreported issue

Research shows that elder abuse is a more common problem than many people may think. To illustrate the prevalence of the issue, the AOA offers the following figures, which have been pulled from various studies:

  • As many as 10 percent of older adults have experienced a non-financial form of abuse in the last year.
  • Older adults with dementia or mental disabilities are significantly more likely to fall victim to abuse. One study found that as many as half of elderly dementia patients had been abused at some point.
  • Nursing homes are a frequent setting for abuse. In one study, 40 percent of nursing home residents had experienced neglect, and a shocking 95 percent reported experiencing abuse or witnessing the abuse of another resident.

Disturbingly, many studies indicate elder abuse is underreported, so these figures may not even capture the full scope of the problem.

Statistics also show that elder abuse is becoming a growing problem. In Georgia, for example, the number of reported cases of abuse increased 65 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to the Georgia Council on Aging. The AOA states that a similar trend is apparent on a national scale, with a greater number of abuse cases reported in recent years.

Preventing elder abuse

Georgia lawmakers have taken a few steps to address this growing issue. WCTV News states that in 2013, lawmakers expanded the definition of elder abuse to include sexual abuse and financial exploitation. This year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a new bill seeks to make it easier for financial institutions to report suspicions about financial abuse. The bill would also allow harsher sanctions for nursing home operators involved in abuse.

Still, despite these measures, elder abuse may remain a significant problem. People with family members in nursing homes or assisted care facilities can benefit from knowing the potential signs of abuse. According to the AOA, bruises, unexplained injuries and signs of neglect, such as bedsores or dehydration, may indicate abuse. Depression and emotional withdrawal can also be signs of abuse. Family members should stay alert to unusual behavioral changes as well as physical symptoms.

Recourse for victims

Elder abuse can result in physical harm, lingering health problems, emotional distress and other serious consequences. The victims of elder abuse may be entitled to compensation for all of these harmful outcomes. Meeting with a personal injury attorney may be a beneficial step for elder abuse victims or their families, as an attorney may be able to offer advice on the available legal remedies.

Keywords: nursing home, elder, abuse, injury