Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Silent shame.- How Could This Happen?

Wisconsins,-USA Dean Mosiman608-252-6141 dmosiman@madison.com
  • An elderly recluse starves to death.
  • A con man bleeds nearly $250,000 from two women in their 90s.
  • A nursing home aide sexually assaults a 73-year-old Alzheimer's patient.
  • An eccentric 88-year-old woman with $50,000 in her handbag is shot to death and left in a farm field.
The stories, all from Wisconsin, outrage us and capture our attention — for awhile. But thousands of senior citizens here, and millions nationally, are suffering silently at the hands of family, caregivers and even themselves.

The social service and justice systems can barely handle reported cases of abuse. They miss the majority, which go unreported, and are unprepared to help the aging baby boomers who will soon flood the system, the Wisconsin State Journal found in an eight-month investigation. After conducting more than 150 interviews, and examining of scores of county, state and federal documents and databases, the newspaper found:

How many victims?

No one knows how many elderly Americans are abused, neglected or exploited. The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study of 1998 found more than 500,000 Adult Protective Services reports across the country, but surveys of front-line responders indicated that only one in five cases are reported. Later studies have estimated that perhaps one in 14 cases in domestic settings are reported, and that one in 25 victims of financial exploitation come forward.

Police agencies often don't train officers to investigate elder abuse, and don't always insist on arrests when senior citizens are victims of domestic violence

"It's a tremendously serious problem," said Sharon Merriman-Nai, who runs the National Center on Elder Abuse managed from the University of Delaware. "I think we're about to hit critical mass with the aging of the population. I think we're looking at a crisis."

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