Report Helps Flesh Out Portrait of Elder Abuse and Its Victims

While abuse of the elderly is a growing problem, comparatively little is known about the circumstances, victims and perpetrators of such crimes. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority has published in its August 2005 Research Bulletin findings based on state and federal data that fill in some of the details.

According to the report, the typical victim of elder abuse '“ in both Illinois and nationally -- is a white female 80 years of age or older. Family members are most likely to perpetrate the abuse, and females are as likely as males to be the abusers.

The study found that the most common form of abuse in Illinois was financial exploitation (34 percent), followed by emotional abuse (28 percent), passive neglect (22 percent), and physical abuse (10 percent).

In Illinois, the highest percentage of elder abuse victims lived in their own home or apartment (80 percent), were white (75 percent), female (70 percent '“ the figure is 56 percent nationally), widowed (48 percent), physically impaired (41 percent), and between the ages of 76 and 85 (39 percent), with a mean age of 79 years. Sixty percent of Illinois elder abuse victims did not have any special legal status, such as being under a guardianship or conservatorship.

As for the alleged elder abusers in Illinois, most were white (72 percent), were not likely to be a caregiver of the elderly victim (49 percent), were children of the victim (42 percent) and financially dependent on the victim (22 percent). Also, the majority of alleged abusers (80 percent) did not hold any special legal status, such as power of attorney, over the victim.

Between 1993 and 2003, the number of reported cases of elder abuse in Illinois shot up 85 percent, from 4,142 to 7,672. (During the same period, robbery fell 50 percent and hate crimes dropped 43 percent.) Nevertheless, "Laws governing elder abuse reporting combined with a variety of unique barriers senior citizens often face may camouflage the actual number of elder abuse cases that occur in Illinois," the report states.

To read "The rise in reported elder abuse: A review of state and national data," click on: