Is This Elder Abuse?
Alice, 75, a widow,
lived in a small apartment with her
son, Frank, 54. Frank had been in and
out of drug and alcohol treatment centers
for years, but was doing well for the
last six months since he moved back
in with his mother. Alice knew here
son had nowhere else to go so she took
him in under two conditions: he had
to find a job and he could not drink.
Frank found a job and things seemed to be going well until
he stopped coming home right after work. Alice knew he was stopping
at the corner bar because she could smell the alcohol on his
breath. The third time this happened, Alice confronted her son.
Frank immediately became belligerent, verbally abusing her and
forcing her to go to her room. The next night Alice confronted
him again threatening to throw him out if he continued to drink.
Frank became enraged and started running toward his mother with
his fist raised over his head. Fearing for her life, Alice fled
to the safety of her neighbor's house.
Is This Elder Abuse?
Carol, 24, divorced, lived
on the second floor of an apartment with
her two young children. Living below her
on the first floor was Beatrice
, 86, a nice
old lady who didn't leave here apartment
very often because of her arthritic knees
and poor eyesight. Carol and her children
visited Beatrice frequently and often helped
with her laundry in exchange for occasional
babysitting. Beatrice loved their company.
Every Saturday, Carol offered to do the grocery shopping for
Beatrice. Because she could not do it herself, Beatrice was happy
to accept Carol's help. Carol thought it was okay to keep $20
of the change each week because she was taking the time and trouble
to help Beatrice; although, she was never offered any money.
Carol thought Beatrice would never realize the money was missing
because of her poor eyesight.
In both scenarios it is clear that elder abuse is a disturbing reality
in today's society. The risk of being abused, neglected or exploited
is real for many older people. Family members or other caregivers
are most often the abusers. The problem crosses all geographic, socioeconomic,
racial, and ethnic barriers.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), "Elder
abuse in domestic settings is a widespread problem, possibly affecting
hundreds of thousands of elderly people across the country. However,
because it is still largely hidden under the shroud of family secrecy,
this type of abuse is grossly underreported." In fact, many experts
agree that the reported numbers represent only the "tip of the
iceberg." It is estimated that only 1 out of 14 domestic elder
abuse cases is reported to the authorities.
In Illinois, it is estimated that four to five percent of the
older population (approximately 80,000 persons) is abused. Only
5,000 cases or so are reported each year. Currently, six out of
ten reported cases are substantiated after investigation.
Types of elder abuse may include physical, sexual, or emotional
abuse; neglect, or financial exploitation. It is possible that
more than one type of abuse may be suspected in any given case.
Financial exploitation and emotional abuse are the types most commonly
reported in Illinois.