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The Issue of Elder Abuse in the US Essay

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Updated: Feb 12th, 2022


The purpose of this paper is to analyze the problem of elder abuse in America based on the data from the United States. It is estimated that 1 in 10 adults in the US is affected by this issue in some way (Teaster et al. 41). Even more alarming is the fact that the number of elder abuse reports is said to be significantly lower than the number of actual occurrences. Among other factors, elderly citizens are subjected to financial abuse, emotional abuse, and in some cases, even physical abuse.

The issue of elder abuse is not well recognized and public awareness of it is low. Contributing to this is the way the elderly handle the situation. A national prevalence study states that only 8% of participants who admitted to experiencing emotional abuse have reported it to the police (Roberto 302). It appears that the seniors tend to have a passive mindset, either from fear of the abuser’s retaliation or from lack of belief in help from the state institutions.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is manifested in various forms of exploitation of an elderly person’s monetary resources, usually by a family member or another trusted figure. There are numerous forms of financial abuse; for instance, a caretaker could persuade an elderly person that they are entitled to additional compensation for their work (Roberto 305). In other cases, a relative could gain access to a senior’s savings and spend or withdraw substantial amounts of money without asking for permission or informing the owner in any way.

The significance of this aspect of the problem cannot be understated, as the elders depend on their savings and other material possessions more than any other age group. In addition to the fact that regaining lost property and money is challenging for a retired person, it is extremely disheartening for anyone to realize that the results of their life’s work were stolen. What is more, financial problems can even pose a threat to a person’s life, as many elders require extensive medical care and general assistance.

To solve this problem, more people need to be made aware of it. If elders know that they are a likely target of various fraudulent practices, they might become more careful with their money. Unfortunately, this would mean that they will not be able to trust their caregivers and family members completely; however, that is a small price to pay, considering the reduced risk of financial abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is one of the most difficult types of elder abuse to identify. Due to its intangible nature, it is often unrecognized by victims and left unreported (Roberto 306). Emotional abuse is often perpetrated by spouses who used to commit physical abuse during the earlier stages of their relationship. The constant lack of respect, sometimes combined with threats and intimidation, can have a devastating impact on a person’s mental health and remain unnoticed.

There are, however, some tendencies in people’s behavior that can indicate emotional abuse. Because the victims are accustomed to the fact that conversation with others is an unpleasant and hurtful experience, they are usually unresponsive and unwilling to communicate (Roberto 306). Some act defensively, suspecting that others might have intentions to harm them in some way. In addition to fear, the subjects of abuse often completely lose interest in socialization, isolating themselves from others.

As stated earlier, emotional abuse is hard to detect; therefore the emphasis in combating it should be put on increasing awareness. Since the victims themselves are often isolated from others and not communicative, their caretakers, or other people who can observe their behavior need to be informed of the indicators of emotional abuse. When these people report the problem, social services can intervene and provide the necessary support.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is especially dangerous to the elderly due to their health being less stable than that of younger adults. Although this form of elder abuse is often given the focus of attention by the media, it is less common than the other two mentioned in this paper. According to a prevalence survey, only 1.6% of participants experienced physical abuse, compared to 5.2% for financial abuse and 4.5% for emotional abuse (Roberto 302). Still, this is a severe threat to the livelihood of senior citizens.

The effects of physical abuse extend beyond the obvious health concerns. Even though the mental impact is not the same as that of emotional abuse, it is still devastating. Some victims keep struggling with depression and lack the ability to socialize for years after the violence has stopped (Roberto 306). Furthermore, physical violence is often combined with other types of abuse, which causes even more dire consequences.

Unlike the victims of emotional abuse, those subjected to physical abuse do realize what is being done to them. However, they are reluctant to confess their problems and ask for help. Even when their injuries are too apparent to hide, they often disguise their true origin. In some cases, the abused even refuse to get medical assistance for repeated injuries (Roberto 304). To help these people, someone needs to notice the indicators of abuse and alert the police. Once the immediate threat is removed, further health and psychological care can be administered.

Works Cited

Roberto, Karen A. “The complexities of elder abuse.” American Psychologist, vol. 71, no. 4, 2016, pp. 302-311.

Teaster, Pamela B., Joy Swanson Ernst, and Patricia Brownell. “United States Issues in Elder Abuse.” International Handbook of Elder Abuse and Mistreatment, edited by Mala Kapur Shankardass, Springer, 2020, pp. 41-57.

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