March 5, 2012

USA: Up to 10 percent of nation's elderly suffer abuse from in-home caregivers

MOUNT CLEMENS, Michigan / Daily Tribune / News / March 5, 2012

By Matt Keeton

While seniors often are the target of a variety of telephone and Internet scams, some of the most common forms of elder abuse are committed by those closest to vulnerable adults, such as in-home caregivers.

As there are few requirements for an individual to become a caregiver, it can be difficult to find a reliable, trustworthy caregiver, Kalkaska County Commission on Aging (KCOA) Director Gay Rowell said. The KCOA can place caregivers in homes and does full background and reference checks, as well as helping families work out payment methods.

"We put caregivers in the home," Rowell said. "We do in-home services and we encourage the family to let us help."

Link to Initiatives pageAccording to nationwide statistics from independent studies compiled by the National Center on Elder Abuse, an estimated one to two million Americans age 65 and older have been injured, exploited, or mistreated by a caregiver.

"The sad reality is that most of the financial exploitation that we see is committed by somebody known to the victim," said Lynne McCollum, Legal Services Developer and Elder Abuse Prevention Specialist for the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging. "There are the investment scams and the stranger scams, foreign lotteries and that kind of thing, but what we see most frequently is somebody who was already known and trusted or have befriended someone. It’s that trust relationship that is used, then abused, to steal from and harm an adult."

The estimated frequency of elder abuse ranges from two percent to 10 percent of the elderly population nationwide and only one in 14 incidents of elder abuse in domestic settings, excluding incidents of self-neglect, as well as one in 25 incidents of financial exploitation are reported.

In cases that are reported, it can often be difficult to prove abuse has occurred, McCollum said. She said one reason why elder abuse continues to be prevalent is because many of the safety nets established to help protect people from child and domestic abuse have not been established for the protection of the elderly.

"Overall, we still are a good 10 to 20 years behind where (cases of) child abuse and domestic violence are right now," McCollum said.

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm initiated a task force during her second term that focused on elder abuse, McCollum said.

"Out of that task force came a series of recommendations," McCollum said. "A number of those were legislative recommendations and ever since that time, we’ve been trying to get bills passed with no success." Continued...

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