Elder Abuse Statistics - Statistics on Elderly Abuse Over Time

Elder Abuse Statistics

Statistics on Elder and Nursing Home Abuse

Quick Answer

Elder abuse is a nationwide issue that affects millions of people each year. Researchers and advocates collect data and compile statistics to help better understand this widespread problem. By studying these statistics, families can learn why abuse takes place, which groups of seniors run a higher risk of being abused, and how to keep their loved ones safe.

Importance of Elder Abuse Statistics

As of 2018, 52 million people in the U.S. were over the age of 65. Nearly 1 in 10 of these people suffer from elder abuse every year, according to some estimates.

Anyone can commit elder abuse, from loved ones to caregivers to other residents in a nursing home. And, elder abuse takes many forms, including physical injuries, financial exploitation, and even sexual battery.

Concerned families should review the most important elder abuse facts and statistics to get a scope of the overall problem and learn how to protect their loved ones.

Quick Statistics on Elder Abuse

  • Elderly women are more likely to suffer from abuse than men, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).
  • At least 1 out of 10 adults over the age of 65 suffers from at least one type of abuse each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Data from the U.S. Census Bureau projects that 95 million Americans will be aged 65 or older by the year 2060.
  • As of 2017, 1.2 million seniors need nursing home care. By 2030, this number is expected to increase to 1.9 million, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
  • Elder abuse often goes unreported. In a study from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, only 1 out of nearly 24 elder abuse cases were actually reported to authorities.

Elder Abuse Statistics by Type

When the word “abuse” comes to mind, some may think of physical injuries. However, seniors can also suffer from emotional, financial, and even sexual abuse.

Below, learn about important statistics for each type of abuse.

Emotional Abuse Statistics

Emotional abuse among seniors can vary with each case. Common types of emotional abuse include screaming at or demeaning the elderly. Isolating the elderly from their relatives, loved ones, or friends may be type of emotional abuse.

Here are some important emotional elder abuse statistics:

  • According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), caregivers are more likely to emotionally abuse seniors (as opposed to spouses or family members).
  • Roughly 54 out of 129 seniors with dementia experienced some form of psychological abuse from their caregivers, according to a 2010 study from the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.
  • 38% of elders reported they experienced at least one instance of verbal abuse in a 2014 study conducted by Northeastern University researchers.

Because this type of abuse may not leave physical marks, families should take note of their loved one’s overall mood if they suspect emotional harm has taken place.

Common signs of emotional abuse include anxiety, irritability, and fear of specific residents or staff members if the senior lives in a nursing home.

Financial Abuse Statistics

Financial abuse occurs when someone steals or swindles money from a senior. Financial abusers tend to be trusted caregivers, friends, or relatives looking to extort the hard-earned life savings of the elderly.

Here are some important financial elder abuse statistics:

  • Seniors lose at least $2.6 Billion a year due to financial abuse — and possibly more due to unreported cases.
  • Only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse is reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA).
  • NAPSA also notes that elderly victims of financial abuse are three times more likely to die and four times more likely to enter a nursing home.
  • Financial abuse can take many forms, including identity theft, use of debit or credit cards, lottery scams, telemarketing or internet scams, or abuse of power of attorney.
  • If a senior lives with a child that is unemployed or suffers from substance abuse, they run a greater risk of financial abuse.

One of the best ways to prevent financial abuse is by having a responsible family member or attorney manage or co-manage a senior’s accounts. All family members should be kept in the loop about this decision, as this can help keep the process transparent.

Physical Abuse Statistics

Abuse can leave seniors with long-term injuries or permanent disabilities. Physical abuse may also contribute to their death in some cases.

Here are some important physical abuse statistics:

  • Seniors who were physically abused had a 300% greater risk of prematurely dying compared to those who had not been, according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Spouses or other partners were the greatest culprits of physical abuse, accounting for nearly 60% of all cases according to a study from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
  • In 2013, over 9,700 complaints about nursing home abuse were filed in the U.S. The most common type of complaint involved physical abuse.

Elders who have been physically abused should be taken to a hospital for treatment and should not go back to living with the caregiver or spouse who abused them. Physical abuse is inexcusable in every way.

Sexual Abuse Statistics

This type of abuse includes any forced sexual interaction that a senior did not consent to. In addition to possible physical injuries, sexual abuse can psychologically traumatize victims and their families and may even leave seniors with sexually transmitted diseases in some cases.

Here are some notable statistics about sexual abuse among seniors:

  • Sexual abuse remains the least reported type of elder abuse, according to data from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • According to the Administration for Community Living, nearly 16,000 reports of sexual abuse in nursing homes have been made since 2000.
  • From 2013 to 2016, over 1,000 nursing homes were cited for sexual abuse, according to data from a CNN report. Roughly 100 of these homes received multiple citations during this time.

This horrific form of abuse affects both men and women every year. If family members suspect sexual abuse, they should calmly ask the senior to explain what happened (if possible), look for bruising or trauma and report the incident without delay.

Neglect Statistics

There are a few important distinctions between abuse and nursing home neglect. While abuse is the result of intentional harm, neglect occurs when a caretaker fails to address a senior’s health care needs.

Neglect is not the same as making a simple mistake. It is a pattern of failures that cause a senior to suffer long-term injuries. For example, seniors neglected in nursing homes may be left sitting in their bed for days at a time, leading to extremely dangerous and uncomfortable bedsores.

Important statistics about nursing home neglect include:

  • The U.S. Justice Department notes that caregiver neglect is the most unreported type of abuse, with 1 out of every 57 cases being reported. Neglect is also one of the most common types of elder abuse.
  • A 2011 study found that 21% of nursing home residents were neglected at least once over a 12-month period.
  • Neglect accounted for 14% of complaints against nursing homes, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Neglect can be just as harmful — or deadly — as nursing home abuse. Family members should report cases of neglect as soon as they arise to keep their loved ones safe.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Nursing homes are designed to keep seniors safe when they can no longer take care of themselves. That being said, some residents suffer from nursing home abuse at the hands of staff members or other residents.

Here are some notable nursing home abuse statistics:

  • According to the WHO, 64% of nursing home staff members admitted to abusing residents in 2017.
  • 1 in 5 emergency room visits among nursing home residents was attributed to abuse or neglect in a 2019 report from the Office of Inspector General.
  • 24% of nursing home residents reported that a staff member physically abused them in a 2012 study conducted by Michigan State University.
  • Abuse, exploitation, or neglect accounted for 7.6% of complaints reported to ombudsmen at long-term care facilities.

Here are some notable nursing home abuse statistics:

  • According to the WHO, 64% of nursing home staff members admitted to abusing residents in 2017.
  • 1 in 5 emergency room visits among nursing home residents was attributed to abuse or neglect in a 2019 report from the Office of Inspector General.
  • 24% of nursing home residents reported that a staff member physically abused them in a 2012 study conducted by Michigan State University.
  • Abuse, exploitation, or neglect accounted for 7.6% of complaints reported to ombudsmen at long-term care facilities.

How Often Does Elder Abuse Occur?

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that up to 5 million seniors suffer from abuse every year.

That being said, the exact numbers remain unclear as elder abuse often goes unreported. The WHO estimates that just 1 out of 24 elder abuse cases gets reported.

Why Isn’t Elder Abuse Reported?

Elder abuse goes unreported for a few different reasons.

  1. Fear: Seniors may not report abuse as they fear the abuser will find out and retaliate. They may also feel embarrassed that they were abused and not want to share these details with others.
  2. Impairment: Seniors with mental handicaps may not be able to speak properly, making them more likely to suffer from abuse. A 2010 study found that nearly 50% of seniors with dementia suffered from abuse or neglect.

When a senior is unable to report abuse or neglect, this responsibility falls to their spouse or immediate family. Always report any suspected abuse to local authorities to keep elders safe.

Who Commits the Most Elder Abuse?

Family members are most likely to commit elder abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

A family member is more likely to commit abuse if they:

  • Are a male
  • Are a spouse or grown child
  • Are experiencing unemployment or financial issues
  • Currently or previously abused drugs or alcohol
  • Have had run-ins with the law
  • Suffer from mental or physical health issues

Other than family members, in-home caregivers, nursing home staff members, and other residents of nursing homes can all commit elder abuse.

Elder Abuse Is a Growing Danger

As the world’s population ages, the number of elder abuse cases is projected to increase dramatically. The WHO expects that 320 million will have suffered from elder abuse by the year 2050.

Sadly, addressing elder abuse remains a challenge since the root causes vary with each case, and the full extent of the problem is still unknown.

Families can keep their loved ones safe by checking on them regularly and reporting any signs of abuse to local authorities. They can also use the Nursing Home Compare website to find high-quality homes near them and learn which facilities have been cited for abuse.

To learn more important facts about elder abuse, get a free case review today. Our team can connect you with important medical and legal resources to keep your loved one safe.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

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