The most recent estimates suggest 1 in 10 seniors are abused, neglected or exploited, and that has serious implications for individuals and communities. Victims of elder abuse are much more likely to end up in hospitals and nursing homes. Seniors lose almost $3 billion a year due to financial exploitation, which leaves them vulnerable and dependent on government or family assistance. With an aging population, elder abuse is only expected to increase, and social service agencies are often not able to keep up. In this five-part series, we look at the complexities of elder abuse in the D.C. region and why the problem is so difficult to address.
WHERE TO GET HELP IN DC, MARYLAND, VIRGINIA
WARNING SIGNS OF ELDER ABUSE
COUPLE TALE OF ABUSE
James and Etta Jennings moved to the Forest Hill neighborhood of Richmond in 1959. They were young - just married - and the first owners of their red brick ranch house. They had children and then grandchildren, who gathered in their family room for holidays and learned to swim in their backyard pool.
But when their granddaughter, Jeannie Beidler, approached the home on July 27, 2010, she was confronted by a grim reality. Paramedics, police and Adult Protective Services social workers were on the scene.
"You could smell the stench of urine and feces," she says, standing at the foot of the driveway. "From this point, we already knew what we were about to walk into."
The Jennings' son, Beidler's uncle, was supposed to be caring for them, but it became clear very quickly that something had gone horribly wrong. The Jennings were living without running water or even a fan. James was confined to a chair. His blood pressure was high and he was fading in and out of consciousness. Etta was living on a broken bed crawling with maggots.
Beidler was overwhelmed.
"To think how could this have happened to her? I can't think of a sadder moment in my life or a heavier moment in my life than that," she says.
It's hard to imagine how a family home could sour and rot as the Jennings' had, or how somebody could watch two elderly parents wasting away. But neglect is not uncommon, especially for seniors with dementia and complicated medical conditions who are also at risk for physical and emotional abuse, as well as financial exploitation
In a study funded by the National Institute of Justice, approximately 1 in 10 seniors reported being abused or neglected in the previous year, and financial exploitation of seniors is estimated to total $2.9 billion dollars a year. Victims of abuse are more than twice as likely to die prematurely and more than four times as likely to be admitted to a nursing home or rehab center.
SOURCE: AMERICAN UNIVERSITY RADIO
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