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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Older People’s Abuse is a Crime



This page includes information on the growing population of older adults and provides the following data about elder abuse: challenges in elder abuse research, research definitions, incidence and prevalence, risk factors, perpetrators, adults with disabilities, adults with dementia, residents of long-term care settings, general impact, and interventions. The statistics and data presented on this page are based on a variety of references including peer-reviewed publications from high-ranking journals. When reviewing this page, keep in mind that the findings referenced come from a variety of research methods, with varying operational definitions and based in various geographic settings. Therefore, caution should be taken when attempting to generalise the data presented here. This page refers to elder abuse in a general sense, incorporating all recognised forms of abuse. Researchers concur that elder abuse is an epidemic that necessitates collaborative interventions.

In the UK alone between 500,000 and 800,000 older people are abused in their own homes each year. 

Between 500,000 and 800,000 older people are subject to abuse and/or neglect within communities in the UK each year. 

Too many old people are suffering and dying, or losing their life savings due to abuse. Too many relatives are disgusted with the lack of justice, the lack of fairness, the lack of any deterrence.

Older People’s Abuse is a Crime, but it isn’t treat like one.


·         Over 500,000 older people are abused in the UK each year
·         Elder abuse can occur anywhere. This includes in someone’s own home, a residential home, or a hospital
·         Both older men and women can be at risk of abuse, though most victims are women over the age of 70
·         There are five common types of abuse: physical, psychological, financial, sexual abuse and neglect

Experts have reported that knowledge about elder abuse lags as much as two decades behind the fields of child abuse and domestic violence. The need for more research is urgent and it is an area that calls out for a coordinated, systematic approach that includes policy-makers, researchers and funders.

Various statutory bodies in the UK are failing older people by not having recording and monitoring measures in place for incidents of elder abuse.  I made a number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests across a variety of Police and Local Authorities the consistent reply was

“The information you seek is not held in an easily retrievable format, and it would necessitate a manual review of each incident to identify the number of cases captured by the scope of the request. I am not obliged to release this information, as the time and cost involved is above the amount legally required”

On further insistence, I received the reply that stated

“The information you seek is not held in an easily retrievable format, and it would necessitate a manual review of each incident to identify the number of cases captured by the scope of the request.  Your request is not ubiquitous to public safety or knowledge, I am not obliged to release this information, as the time and cost involved is above the amount legally required”

Despite that we can identify some startling statistics and projections:

Between 500,000 and 800,000 older people are subject to abuse and/or neglect within communities in the UK each year.

This could rise to 1.6 million by 2050.

As little as 6% of victims report abuse to the police.

In 2013/14 there were 28,000 substantiated adult protection referrals regarding elder abuse and yet there were only 3,317 referrals by police to the CPS in England and Wales.

In 2013/14 18,932 crimes against people aged 60+ were recorded in Wales and yet there were only 194 successful convictions.

I can only speculate the figures for 2015/16.  According to the best estimates, about 1-2 million 65 years of age or older have been mistreated, exploited or injured by a caregiver.

Research suggests:
Only about one out of every 14 incidents of older people’s abuse (including self-neglect) in domestic settings actually come to the attention of authorities.
Only one out of every 25 cases of financial exploitation are reported. These unreported incidents would increase the amount to 5 million victims of financial exploitation per year.
20 percent of cases of neglect, exploitation, abuse or self-neglect are reported.
20 thousand complaints of exploitation, neglect and abuse coming from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The most common type of abuse reported was physical abuse.
The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year. Ten percent were cases unrelated to financial exploitation.

By 2050, 20 percent of all people will be 65 years of age or older. The population group growing the fastest included those who were older than 85 years of age. In 2010, there were about 5.8 million people older than 85 years of age. This number is projected to increase to 19 million by the year 2050.

Mistreatment of the elderly is defined as undertaking intentional actions that result in the harm or risk of harm to an elderly person by a trusted person or caregiver of an elderly person. Mistreatment can be defined as acts of commission or acts of omission, which is the same thing as neglect.

While not much is definitively known about how many elderly people are being abused, it appears that elderly women are abused at a higher frequency than men. People who are above the age of 80 stand a greater chance of being abused compared to “younger” old people (ages 65-80).

The signs of abuse of the elderly might go undetected by health professionals caring for older people because they lack the training necessary to detect this form of abuse. There is also a reluctance on the part of the elderly to report their own abuse because they fear retribution, or they lack the physical or cognitive ability to file a report.

About 90 percent of perpetrators of elder abuse are family member, including spouses, adult children, partners and other relatives. The incidence of abuse is higher if the family member suffers from drug or alcohol abuse, have some type of mental illness, or feel burdened by the care of their loved ones.
“Ninety percent of abusers are family members and generally, the elderly do not want to see their loved ones get into trouble.”

Dementia and Abuse of the Elderly
According to research, dementia is a risk factor for abuse. About 5.1 million elderly people have some degree of dementia, which constitutes nearly half of all people older than aged 85.

The number of Alzheimer’s cases are expected to rise by the year 2025. A study showed that 47 percent of patients with dementia suffered from some kind of abuse.

Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities and Nursing Homes
Elder abuse occurs in both home settings and institutional settings. The available research indicates the following:

A study of 2,000 nursing facility residents indicated an abuse rate of 44 percent and a neglect rate of 95 percent.

Complaints of abuse, exploitation or neglect accounted for 7 percent of complaints given to Ombudsmen at long term care facilities.

Older People’s Abuse Is a Growing Danger
As older people’s abuse is a “silent condition”, as no one knows exactly how many of our nation’s elderly are being exploited, neglected or abused.  Evidence suggests that there are thousands of elderly people being harmed in the U.K every day, but no official statistics exist.  Part of the problem is that there it is unclear exactly what acts or omissions constitute abuse and the rate of reporting is low.

The statistics reflecting incidents of abuse involving elderly residents in nursing homes and care facilities are both staggering and disheartening.
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