(LAS VEGAS, KXNT)–Nevada officials say abuse of the elderly is on the increase and is often under-reported.
State officials say more than 5500 cases of alleged elder abuse were investigated in 2013, and more than a quarter of them were substantiated.
The number of cases reported in the current fiscal year is already more than 200 above last year.
More than 80% of victims are abused in their own homes.
In an interview with KXNT’s Desiree Peeples, Jill Bernston of the Nevada Aging and Disabilities Service said “People don’t know, they don’t recognize what elder abuse is, and they need to be educated about that. They’re not sure where to report. Sometimes people themselves don’t report they’re abuse because they’re embarrassed or they’re ashamed.”
She says that seniors even experience less known types of abuse that “comes in the form of neglect, and not being able to care for themselves with proper hygiene or enough food.”
The reasons that elder abuse is rarely reported are many. Victims are usually not willing to report family members, in other cases, the victims are unable to report the abuse due to health issues such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. The other problem is that there are only a few programs available to help seniors in need. Even when a caring friend or neighbor does report the abuse, the majority of seniors are unwilling or unable to leave their homes or the abuser. Unlike child protective services, elder protective services cannot remove the elderly person from a home.
Berntson adds that the first step in helping elder abuse victims is getting them an evaluation and then later, a guardian to intervene if necessary. “Recognizing abuse is part of the problem, so we want to educate people to know the signs and take action when appropriate,” she said.
To report elder abuse call 1-888-729-0571.