When discussing abuse and neglect we often think of children first. That being said, children are not the only ones who will be abused and/or neglected.
In fact, this happens to some elderly as well. While some elderly may be productive enough to care for themselves, others are not. The end result is a complete (or close to complete) dependency on someone else for their needs. In addition, just like with children, this dependency can lead to abuse and/or neglect. There has been an increase in the number of elderly that have been subjected to violence and mistreatment.This type of treatment is associated with the individual’s dependency on others; whether it be a relative, acquaintance and/or institution (Meadows, 2010).
According to estimates “between 1 and 2 million Americans aged 65 years or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for case or protection (National Research Council Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of elder abuse and neglect, 2003)” (Meadows, 2010, p. 87). The type of abuse that elderly get subjected to is not only physical, it may also be emotional.Obviously, abuse may take on many different forms and may include: financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.
This abuse is not limited to certain circumstances it can happen in poor, middle-class or upper income household. This includes a variety of ethnicities (Meadows, 2010). Anyone may potential cause abuse and/or neglect. Neglect gets broken up into two types, passive and active (Meadows, 2010). Passive neglect is when “the primary caregiver, perhaps a son or daughter, for some reason is unable to provide required care” (Meadows, 2010, p.
88).Active neglect is when there is a “conscious attempt to inflict injury or emotional stress on the older person” (Meadows, 2010, p. 88). This type of neglect may involve a “deliberate withdrawal of health services, food or other necessities” (Meadows, 200, p. 88). In some ways older people seem like the perfect targets for abuse, due to their relative weakness.
Active neglect may be utilized for exploitation purposes, like trying “to cash in on a life insurance policy” (Meadows, 2010, p. 88).Caring for elders that are very ill or incapacitated can be daunting and become burdensome. This is when a situation may spiral out of control and lead to a passive neglect situation. Today, with the increase in life span, it only widens the opportunity for an increase in elderly victimization (Meadows, 2010).
This victimization is not limited to family caregivers, it also includes institutions. Negligence is also occurring within nursing homes and other care institutions. Studies pertaining to negligence in nursing homes have been conducted.The text uses California as an example, in which 1 out of 3 nursing homes were found to have serious problems with life threatening care.
In many cases the care was far from standard and caused death in residents. Of course causes of death need to be looked into along with allegations that are made. Studies are then conducted to determine the legitimacy of those allegations. Likewise, studies also attempt to determine what type of abuse/neglect is most prominent (Meadows, 2010).Erik Lindbloom conducted a study that “revealed several markers that indicate potential for injury and/or death to patients in nursing homes” (Meadows, 2010, p. 90).
The following is a list of markers that may signify whether abuse and neglect are occurring: physical condition/quality of care, facility characteristics, inconsistencies, and staff behavior (Meadows, 2010). These markers, in many ways, would help to validate many of the allegations people make about nursing home care or any other institutions that provide care.That list also encompasses many of the reservations people have about nursing home (or other institutions) care. The types of abuse elderly may receive in a nursing home does not differ that much from what they may receive from a caregiver (family member, acquaintance, etc). Likewise, the abuse may be physical, emotional or negligent care (Meadows, 2010).
There have been cases where severe medical issues have resulted due to negligent care. The repercussions of this type of care can be severe. The original response to elderly abuse was to create policies that would emphasize prevention.This was meant to keep these issues of abuse from entering the criminal justice system.
The 1976 Older Americans Act, created the nursing home ombudsmen programs, which were meant to control the amount of abuse/neglect that was happening in nursing homes (Payne and Gainey, 2006). Residents in nursing homes have their rights protected by law. Congress passes the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987. This “requires each state to issue regulations to protect the rights of nursing home residents (Meadows, 2010, P. 91).By the 1990’s there was concern about the limited attention elderly abuse and neglect was receiving from the Criminal Justice System.
In some ways the intervention stance was not enough. Despite the lack of research to support the action, elderly abuse was criminalized. This was done through various strategies “such as the passage of penalty enhancement statutes, enforcement of mandatory reporting legislation, and increased police officer presence in response to elder abuse and neglect allegations” (Panye and Gainey, 2006).There are many issues with the criminalization of elder abuse. Police are supportive of criminalization but not the harsh penalties that are in place. Another issue is that many departments that had specific elder abuse programs suffered from problems like “limited funding, inadequate training, communication problems between younger officers and older victims, and family cover-ups hindered investigations” (Payne and Gainey, 2006).
Furthermore, victim’s cognitive impairments make it very difficult to gather evidence (Payne and Gainey, 2006).Other reforms were also passed. In 1992, the Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Program was passed by congress “which promoted advocacy efforts through ombudsman offices, abuse, neglect, and exploitation prevention programs; and legal assistance on behalf of older Americans” (Meadows, 2010, p. 91). In addition the law offers federal funding incentives so that programs to assist the elderly can be developed by states.
There are many intervention methods including calling the police, but intervention is not limited to law enforcement.There are many other programs that can provide help; like the Elder Abuse Hotline, Adult Protective Service, Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, Local Area Agency on Aging and National Center on Elder Abuse (Woolf, 1998). Ultimately, when intervention options were not enough to effectively stop abuse it was decided that criminalization was the next best option. This in turn may play a large role in why abuse and neglect of the elderly goes unreported to the police.In general , people have reservations about calling the police, because of a “sense that nothing can be done, a feeling that the offense is unimportant, a belief that the police do not want to be bothered, fear of reprisals or definition of the crime as a private matter” (Conklin, 2010, p.
46). Some of these specifically relate to why abuse of elderly may go unreported. If the, elder is capable of communicating clearly, they may not want to report their predicament because of fear of losing the person they are dependent on for care.The individuals own ability to communicate would keep them from reporting abuse/neglect to police, even if they wanted to take that action. In some cases, people will idly stand by and not do anything about a case of abuse/neglect because they do not want to report a family member or friend.
It cannot be denied that “family members or close friends are often the culprits of financial, physical, and emotional abuse; this abuse is often difficult to discover and to accept” (Meadows, 2010, p. 88).Perhaps part of not reporting is because of not being able to accept that someone close to you may treat another person in that manner. There are all kinds of reasons people may choose not to report the abuse to police. This can apply to the victim, caregiver or bystander; especially when severe legal penalties apply.
People begin to second guess whether notifying law enforcement is the right action to take.