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Elder Neglect Explained? 5 Sets of Statistics That Provide Context

by John Gomez | Last Updated: January 6, 2017
Elder Neglect

Elder neglect and abuse is a growing if somewhat overlooked problem in the United States.  The problem is only going to get worse as more people than ever before approach their Golden Years.  Some states appear to be in better positions than others when it comes to elder abuse prevention.  Even hospital emergency rooms appear to struggle at times with recognizing the signs of this problem.  Many organizations, including the elder abuse lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys, have published information regarding warning signs of elder abuse and neglect.  Based on the presence of these challenges, we all need to be more aware of the problem that is elder neglect and abuse so that we can help put a stop to it when we suspect that it is occurring.

One organization in California has published several bodies of statistics that provide context to this issue.  The Institute on Aging is based in San Francisco.  It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to protecting the dignity and general well-being of older adults and of people living with disabilities.  You’ll find 5 examples of these helpful contextual statistics below.

1.    Living Longer

Perhaps the most fundamental statistical aspect of the growing problem that is elder neglect and abuse involves the number of potential targets or victims.  As stated above, the population of older people in the United States is growing.  According to the Institute on Aging:

  • In 1985, 11 percent of the United States population was 65 years old or older.
  • In 2010, that percentage had grown to 13 percent, or 40 million people.
  • By the year 2030, that percentage is projected to reach 20 percent of the population.
  • 4.3 million people in California are 65 years old or older.
  • This constitutes more than 11 percent of California’s population and an increase of 18 percent since 2000.

The number of people living beyond age 85 is also rising in the United States.  According to the Institute on Aging:

  • In 1900, approximately 100,000 people in the United States lived to age 85 and beyond.
  • In 2010, that number had grown to 5.5 million people.
  • By the year 2050, that number is expected to reach approximately 19 million people.

2.    Living Alone

When an older person lives alone, he or she is more vulnerable to elder neglect and abuse than those who live with other people.  The reason is obvious in that there are no witnesses present at any given time to help prevent the mistreatment.  The statistics relating to older people living alone include:

  • One-third of older people who did not live in nursing homes in the United States lived alone in 2010.
  • 37 percent of older women live alone in the United States.
  • That’s nearly double the 19 percent of older men who live alone.
  • In 2010, 72 percent of older men lived with a spouse compared to 42 percent of older women.
  • Almost half of all women who were at least 75 years old in the United States lived alone in 2010.

3.    Living With Chronic Conditions

Older people who are struggling with some sort of chronic health condition are clearly going to be more dependent on others for care and the completion of daily routines.  People in this position are also more vulnerable to elder neglect and abuse.  Consider these contextual statistics:

  • In 1984, more than 80 percent of older adults suffered from at least one chronic health problem.
  • That percentage increased to 91 percent in 2005.
  • The death rates for heart disease and stroke fell by more than 50 percent between 1981 and 2009, meaning more people were surviving these occurrences.
  • The prevalence of diabetes among older Americans increased by more than 50 percent between 1997 and 2006.
  • 22 percent of older Americans were obese between 1988 and 1994.
  • That number had increased to 38 percent by 2010.

4.    Caring For Loved Ones

One would think that if an older person was being cared for by a family member that this person would be relatively safe.  That is not necessarily the case.  According to the National Council on Aging, almost 90 percent of elder neglect and abuse incidents involved a family member.  While not all of those suspected perpetrators were caregivers, that statistic combined with what appears below is troubling:

  • Nearly two-thirds of older Americans with long-term needs rely exclusively on family and friends for assistance.
  • 50 percent of older people with a long-term healthcare need but no family available live in nursing homes.
  • Only 7 percent of older Americans who have a family caregiver available live in an assisted living facility.
  • In 2011, 43.5 million family caregivers were caring for someone who was at least 50 years old.
  • 14.9 million of these caregivers were helping someone with dementia.

5.    Living With Physical Challenges

Chronic medical conditions are not the only challenge that older Americans face on a daily basis.  Many people in this age group are forced to live with some form of physical condition.  Older people with these challenges are also seen as potential targets by those who engage in elder neglect and/or abuse.  Consider these statistics:

  • In 2005, 56 percent of people at least 80 years old reported a severe disability.
  • 29 percent of people in that age group reported needing assistance because of that disability.
  • In 2009, 25 percent of people on Medicare reported struggling with at least one daily activity.
  • 40 percent of men who are at least 85 years old struggle with at least one daily activity.
  • 53 percent of women in this age group report struggling with at least one daily activity.

Those interested in reading the entire breakdown from the Institute on Aging can find it here.

How Elder Neglect Lawyers Can Help

There are a lot of different statistics that point to trouble with regards to elder neglect and abuse in the United States.  People who suspect that this is happening to a friend or loved one need to make sure that they are doing everything possible to protect those who are targets of mistreatment.  If you need legal help, contact the elder abuse lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation.

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