1 of 2
NADOFOTOS, Getty Images/iStockphoto
Elder abuse affects as many as 2 million seniors every year in the United States and experts suggest the statistics will increase.

Experts say elder abuse is grossly underreported and they predict the abuse will continue to increase unless the national public is educated.

Recently, prosecutors in Philadelphia were deliberating a murder charge against Jean Dombrowski, a live-in caregiver being held on assault charges for the alleged mistreatment of Plane Paciunas, an elderly woman of 89 years, who presumably died from neglect and abuse, reported the Phildelphia Media Network. Paciuna's cause of death will help determine if a homicide charge will be filed.

WGRZ reported that "elder abuse affects as many as 2 million seniors every year in the U.S., and experts estimate that number will continue to grow as the population ages."

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the nation's 90-years-and-older population was at 1.9 million in 2010 and will quadruple in the next four decades. By 2050, this elderly population will comprise 10 percent of the 65 and older population.

The American Psychological Association reports that the majority of elder abuse victims are female and many of the abusers are male. Adult children are the most typical abusers along with family members, spouses and, most recently, institutions such as hospitals and care homes.

A newly released Cornell University-Weill Cornell Medical College study found that there is also a high level of resident-to-resident elder abuse in care centers, reported the Cornell Chronicle.

The researchers said that their study is one of the first to directly observe and interview residents to discover the magnitude of the elder-to-elder abuse epidemic. They found that around 19 percent of the residents experienced "inappropriate, disruptive or hostile behavior" within their nursing home, according to the Cornell Chronicle.

"We urgently need strategies to address this under-recognized problem, which affects fully one-fifth of all residents, erodes their quality of life and is stressful for staff to manage," said Mark S. Lachs, M.D., a Weill Cornell professor of clinical medicine and medical director of the New York City Elder Abuse Center.

Other experts also suggest that accurate statistics on elder abuse are lacking because most cases go unreported, undetected and untreated.

Definitions of elder abuse vary from state to state according to federal laws. The Administration of Aging categorizes elder abuse into seven areas: physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, exploitation, self-neglect and abandonment.

Allianz Life President and CEO Walter White also explores how the elderly population also can be abused financially.

“Although past studies have explored elder financial abuse, it’s crucial to get a current picture to help determine how the financial services industry can best address this difficult yet preventable problem,” White told Life Health Pro.

Sarah Duval, an attorney for Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled and Disadvantaged of Western New York, told WGRZ that many people might not realize elder abuse is even a growing problem.

Comment on this story

"The shock on people's faces when we tell them that it exists … that shock on people's faces is all I need to see to know that it's not getting the attention that it needs," Duval said in the WGRZ report.

Experts and advocates told the television station that lawmakers and attorneys can help raise awareness about elder abuse by speaking about it to residents and organizations in local communities across the nation.

Email: kclark@deseretnews.com Twitter: @clark_kelsey3

You may also be interested in the following stories:

In the shadow: What life is like having a famous sibling

A nation of Methuselahs: Is it possible for us to live too long?