The National Council on Aging reports that up to 5 million older Americans are abused every single year and impact almost one in 10 Americans over the age of 60. Even more concerning is the fact that researchers with the NCOA estimate only one out of every 24 cases is reported.
Although lawmakers recognize the magnitude of the problem, not all states have taken the same approach to protecting these vulnerable members of our communities. Researchers recently set out to gather information on various efforts at the state level and get a better idea of how we are protecting this vulnerable segment of our population.
What was this study?
The study compared 50 states and the District of Columbia on the prevalence of instances of elder abuse as well as the resources available to help reduce the risk of abuse. These resources included the expenditures on elder-abuse prevention as well as ombudsman program funding.
The research also took protective efforts into consideration when ranking each state. These efforts could include the presence of a forensic center to investigate instances of abuse, the frequency of inspections and presence of laws that allow for surveillance cameras within nursing homes.
How did New Mexico fare?
Unfortunately, not well. Researchers with the study ranked New Mexico at 42, one of the lowest in the country.
What can we do to make sure our loved ones are in good hands?
The first step is education. Talk to loved ones about the potential for abuse and discuss the various ways that abuse can happen, including physical, psychological, and financial.
We can also help reduce the risk of abuse and better ensure we promptly address any potential problems by checking in on a regular basis. We can help our loved ones take control of their finances to reduce the risk of financial abuse by encouraging them to develop a money management plan. Ideally this plan includes a person or people that they trust to make financial decisions on their behalf.
What if we suspect abuse?
We can act to help protect our loved ones and hold their abusers accountable. In some cases, legal recourse is available.