Victims of elder abuse tend to be socially isolated, physically weakened and struggling to maintain their independence. They are reliant on family, friends or caregivers who violate their trust. Because elder abuse is underreported, no one knows is how big the problem really is, reports Stateline. There are no official national statistics on how many older people are mistreated physically, emotionally or financially. Definitions and methods of addressing the issue differ state to state, and even county to county. Nor is there a dedicated stream of federal dollars for Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies that states rely on to combat elder abuse. Each state has cobbled together its own funding and bureaucracy.
There is little doubt the problem is growing, driven by the tremendous growth in the elderly population. Some states are training police and financial professionals to recognize and report elder abuse, and creating special teams of police, social workers and geriatric experts to investigate it. Cities, states and nonprofits are creating shelter housing for abuse victims. “People need to understand what a huge, expensive and lethal problem elder abuse is,” said Kathleen Quinn of the National Adult Protective Services Association. Some researchers estimate that one in 10 people over 60 is abused. That does not include financial exploitation, which costs victims $2.9 billion a year, says MetLife. “If we had a disease that affected 10 percent of the population, I think we'd look closely at it,” Quinn said.