You may have an elderly loved one whom you fear could be at risk for abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the prevalence of mistreatment of the elderly is approximately 10%, but researchers acknowledge that underreporting could be at play. Therefore, the actual incidence could be higher.
Potentially, any elderly person could become the victim of abuse. However, your loved one could be at greater risk if any of the following factors are present.
A condition that negatively affects your loved one’s health and ability to function could make him or her more susceptible to abuse. It is not only physical health that is a factor but mental health as well. Approximately 50% of dementia patients experience abuse in one form or another. The cognitive decline characteristic of dementia may make it difficult for your loved one to report the mistreatment.
Abusers attempt to exert control over vulnerable people. This is easier to accomplish if your loved one does not have a strong support system of family and friends that he or she sees often. In a situation in which social support is low, it is easy for an elderly person to become completely dependent on the abuser.
Ironically, however, elder abuse, particularly financial exploitation, is also more likely when your loved one lives with a large number of household members who may or may not be close family. There may be more opportunity for a member of the household to take advantage of an elderly person.
According to one study, younger senior citizens, i.e., those in their 50s or 60s, reported more abuse than those over the age of 70. However, there could be several reasons for this, and the study may not have used a representative sample.