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Elder Abuse

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Updated February 25, 2005

Americans are now living longer and the population of older Americans continues to grow. The U.S. Bureau of the Census has predicted that as many as 1 in 5 Americans will be age 65 or older by 2050. At present, 6 in 100 Americans (or nearly 33 million people) are aged 65 years or over. Approximately one-fourth of these individuals require some type of help from another person to perform everyday activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, or walking.

As the elderly population grows, so does the occurrence of elder abuse. Between 1986 and 1996, reported cases of elder abuse increased by 150%. Every year thousands of elderly Americans are abused by a caregiver. In 90% of these cases, the abuser is a family member, most often a spouse or an adult child.

Many elderly women rely on others to help them with daily activities, which increases their risk of being abused. Staying at home or needing a caregiver can leave them vulnerable to physical, sexual, or psychological abuse; neglect; or financial exploitation. Most victims of elder abuse are older women who have chronic illnesses or disabilities.

But abuse does not have to be a part of growing older. You can take steps to protect yourself. Choose someone you trust to help you make important decisions about your healthcare and finances. Try to stay involved in matters that directly affect you.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of elder abuse, seek help from other family members and friends or community organizations. Reach out for support or counseling.

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