A new study has found alarming rates of undetected elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Although limited to New York State, the study suggests that elder abuse is far more prevalent than was previously known. For example, the study found that for all types of elder abuse, there are 23.5 unreported cases to every one reported to any agency.
Researchers conducted random telephone surveys of 4,000 New York residents 60 years and older, and compared the occurrence of elder abuse uncovered by the surveys to the numbers of cases reported to adult protective services, law enforcement and other officials or providers. In the case of financial exploitation, the study found 43.9 self-reported cases to every one reported to an agency. The ratio of neglect cases was even higher, with 57.2 cases going unreported for every one that comes to the attention of any services system. A previous study reported by ElderLawAnswers found that for each case of abuse reported, there are at least four that go unreported.
The National Adult Protective Services Association, which is publicizing the study's results, said that the actual prevalence of elder abuse in the total older population may be even higher because the study did not include older persons unable to participate in a telephone survey.
Interestingly, while emotional abuse is the most common form of elder abuse reported to agencies, followed by physical abuse, the self-reported study found financial exploitation to be the most prevalent form of elder mistreatment.
The Association, which represents Adult Protective Services professionals, said that the findings "underscore the urgent need for Congress to appropriate funding for the Elder Justice Act, the first and only comprehensive federal law addressing elder abuse. The Act authorizes up to $100 million in funding per year for state and local Adult Protective Services (APS) Programs, which could provide an estimated 1,700 protective services investigators throughout the country. As the number of seniors, and in particular the number of cases of financial exploitation, rises exponentially, APS Programs throughout the country are being slashed because of faltering state budgets, severely compromising their ability to investigate elder abuse and to take measures to protect frail, often extremely vulnerable older victims."
The Association notes that older persons, as well as younger adults with disabilities, who are victimized by violence, neglect and exploitation are the only category of crime victims who receive no dedicated help from the federal government. The Elder Justice Act was enacted as part of the health reform legislation, but Congress has not funded it.
The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study is the second-largest study ever conducted on the prevalence of elder abuse and the first statewide study to compare self-reported data to reported case data over the same time period. The study's contents are not yet available, pending release by New York State Office of Children and Family Services. The study's authors presented their results at a recent conference on aging.