Elder abuse is a complicated problem with many misconceptions. People often think of elder abuse as something that mainly happens to older people living their final years in nursing homes and retirement care centers. However, the neglect and abuse of seniors most often occurs at home. While abuse certainly does take place in nursing homes and other facilities, sadly, it’s far more common in the senior’s own home.
Elder Abuse in the Home
According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, slightly over 5 percent of the 65+ population occupy nursing homes, congregate care, assisted living, and board-and-care homes, and about 4.2 percent are in nursing homes at any given time. That means that approximately 95% of older Americans live at home in their retirement years. If they are not living alone, they often share their space with a spouse or a relative such as a sibling or a child. When elder abuse happens, it is largely perpetuated by family, housemates, or employed caregivers.
Most occurrences of elder abuse are subtle. It’s not always easy to discern. Elders can become more vulnerable to abuse when living arrangements change. For example, when they have lost the ability to care for themselves, and depend more on others. It may also happen when a younger family member is dependent on an older relative for housing and monetary support.
Another conundrum is that some interpersonal relationships on the surface may appear hostile or abusive to others. But to the elder and those who share the relationship, this dynamic may feel “normal.” This is not to say that the behavior is healthy. Too often, elder abuse is a continuance of years of poor relationship practices, including emotional, physical, financial, sexual, or other abuses.
It’s important to remain vigilant of seniors who remain at home. While the stereotype of elder abuse might conjure up visions of a dilapidated nursing home, the fact is, it’s more likely to take place under the senior’s own roof.
Learn More about Abuse Prevention
This information is intended to inform the public at large about this important issue. It is not intended to serve as legal or medical advice.