The baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) started turning 65 in 2011, and the number of older people will increase dramatically during the 2010–2030 period. The older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as their counterparts in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population.
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population age 85 and over could grow from 5.7 million in 2008 to 19 million by 2050. Some researchers predict that death rates at older ages will decline more rapidly than is reflected in the U.S. Census Bureau’s projections, which could lead to faster growth of this population. The number of people who live to age 90 and beyond has tripled in the past three decades to two million and is projected to quadruple by 2050.
While health concerns, economic issues and loneliness are problems the aging population has to face, there are two major ones that must be addressed. These are neglect/abuse and crime against the elderly.
The statistics are staggering. Sadly, our market is the frail, venerable elderly victim who cannot protect him or herself from abuse, neglect or exploitation from people whom often they love and trust.
Elder Abuse – A Hidden Problem
No one talks about elder mistreatment and abuse. It is a shameful secret, kept hidden behind closed doors. Elder abuse does not discriminate; it occurs in all families from all races, nationalities and income groups.
The term “informal caregiver” refers to family members and friends, who are the primary source of care for the elderly who need assistance with activities of daily living.
In the only national study that attempted to define the scope of elder abuse, the vast majority of abusers were family members, most often, adult children, spouses, partners, and others. [1. National Center on Elder Abuse, Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study: Final report. Washington D.C.: Authors. http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.aspx]
These informal caregivers who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have a mental/emotional illness, and who feel burdened by their care-giving responsibilities abuse at higher rates than those who do not.
Abuse of Residents at Long Term Care Facilities
Elder abuse affects millions of people in the U.S. It occurs regularly in the community and in long term care settings such as nursing homes and board and care homes/assisted living facilities. It has been reported, “a vast reservoir of undetected and unreported elder mistreatment in nursing homes may exist” (Bonnie & Wallace, 2002). Research shows that more than 40% of people over the age of 65 will enter a nursing home before they die. (Murtaugh, Kember, Spillman, & Carlson, 1997).
According to the National Center for Assisted Living (2008), “more than 900,000 people nationwide live in assisted living settings.”52,681 Board & Care Homes with 1,212,015 beds.
Nearly one in three U.S. nursing homes were cited for violations of federal standards that had the potential to cause harm or that had caused actual harm to a resident during the two years 1999-2001.
Nearly one out of ten homes had violations that caused residents harm, serious injury, or placed them in jeopardy of death. (2001 U.S. House of Representatives Report) In a study of 2,000 interviews of nursing home residents, 44% said they had been abused and 95% said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected. (Broyles, 2000)
Dementia and Elder Abuse
Elders with dementia are thought to be at greater risk of abuse and neglect than those of the general elderly population.
A statewide California study of caregivers of adults with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s showed that caregivers provided an average of 84 hours of care per week, the equivalent of more than two full-time jobs. [2. Family Caregiver Alliance (2004/05). “Caregivers at Risk.” www.caregiver.org Older caregivers often spend the most hours providing care[3. Partnership for Solutions (2002). “Chronic conditions: Making the case for ongoing care.” Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University. ] and the amount of time spent caring increases substantially as cognitive impairment worsens.[4. Langa K.M., M. Chernew, M. Kabeto, A.R. Herzog, M.B. Ofstedal, R. Willis, R. Wallace, L. Mucha, W. Straus, AM. Fendrick (2001). “National Estimates of the Quantity and Cost of Informal Caregiving for the Elderly with Dementia.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, 16, 770-778.]
In a U.S. study, caregiver abuse and neglect of people with dementia was detected in 47.3% of the surveyed caregivers.
What type of abuse is most reported by U.S. caregivers of people with dementia?
- Verbal Abuse One study shows 60% of caregivers had been verbally abusive with the person for whom they were providing care.
- Physical Abuse between 5 and 10% of caregivers reported that they were physically abusive toward the care recipients.
- Neglect Fourteen percent of caregivers reported that they were neglectful.