Monday, June 9, 2008

Just What Is Elder Abuse?

by Ray FernandezKey West ,Florida .-USA

Healthcare providers underestimate and underreport elder abuse due to decreased recognition of the problem, lack of awareness of reporting requirements, including who to report to, and concerns about physician-patient confidentiality.

The US National Academy of Sciences defines elder abuse as follows:

Intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended), to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trusted relationship to the elder

Failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder's basic needs or to protect the elder from harm.

Systematically, the terminology used to describe elder abuse is nonconsistent for example in some states leaving an elder sedated alone in a Hotel room who falls and suffers serious injury would constitute elder abuse and neglect under the definitions of Elder Abuse by the US Academy of Sciences

Financial abuse - Misuse of an elderly person's money or assets for personal gain. Acts such as stealing (money, social security checks, possessions) or coercion (changing a will, assuming power of attorney) constitute financial abuse.

Incidents such as these are routinely treated as civil matters and passed over to civil courts where they languish for years depleting any assets the elder might have accumulated for their now not so golden years..

Terms vary among researchers, and usage is not consistent in the laws of different states. Even the age at which a person is considered elderly, usually 60 or 65 years, is debated.

No federal statute is specifically dedicated to preventing the mistreatment of elderly persons similar to those targeted at child abuse and domestic violence. Currently, elder abuse is defined by state laws, but state definitions vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another.

Until we come to terms as to what constitute elder abuse there are bounds to be many more victims that will suffer unnecessarily and will be left with no one to turn to, this is the sad reality of elder abuse laws today which have been described as being 20-25 years behind child protection laws.

Because of the inconsistencies in the working definitions of elder abuse getting accurate information on the incidence of elder abuse and neglect will be very difficult.

Barriers to recognizing and reporting elder abuse also must be addressed as well as the The Role of Courts in Elder Abuse Cases. The lack of uniform definitions has been a major obstacle, the long court battles that await elders reporting elder financial abuse must be addressed, many elders don't have much time or money a victim may not be able to pay for a lawyer's services because the victim's life savings were lost as a result of the exploitation that would be the subject of the lawsuit.

The laws created for elder abuse were based upon child abuse laws; therefore laws are weak on matters such as financial abuse, since children generally have no money to exploit.

The slow pace and customary delays of the legal process are particularly onerous to older persons in general and to those who have been abused in particular.

We need reform and we need it now please let those on a need to know basis know. Thank you.

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