Abuse of the elderly in Florida is on the rise, according to a recent investigation by the Orlando Sentinel.
Although the news outlet did not offer a breakdown of whether the abuse suffered occurred in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living centers, those too were included in the overall totals.
The newspaper noted there is no federal agency that keeps a detailed list of how many elderly people are abused and neglected, there are dozens of government agencies and social service providers that do follow what happens at both the state and local levels.
Elder abuse levels in Florida are climbing substantially. The total number of verified cases of abuse and neglect statewide, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) were:
- 2011 – 1,448
- 2012 – 1,479
- 2014 – 1,658
- 2014 – 2,097
- 2015 – 2,525
That’s a 74 percent increase in just five years.
When it comes to defendants in Central Florida who were charged or sentenced for elder abuse or neglect over the last five years, the Office of State Courts Administrator reported:
- Orange – 57 charged, 17 convicted
- Brevard – 30 charged, 8 convicted
- Lake – 31 charged, 16 convicted
- Osceola – 15 charged, 5 convicted
- Polk – 25 charged, 16 convicted
- Seminole – 8 charged, 4 convicted
- Volusia – 37 charged, 24 convicted
In all of Florida, more than 800 people have been charged with elder abuse and neglect over the course of the last five years. Of those, approximately 370 have been convicted.
Although we don’t have statistics specific to Florida about how many of these cases involved nursing home abuse and neglect, we do know a survey by the University of Kentucky conducted in 2004 revealed about 90 percent of cases of elder abuse and neglect that are substantiated occur at home. Of those, about one-third were the children of the elderly person and more than half involved female abusers.
A common thread among alleged abusers often noted by prosecutors is alcohol and/ or drug addiction or mental illness or both.
Still, prosecutors say such cases can be difficult to prosecute for some of the same reasons nursing home abuse cases can be challenging: Victims often can’t speak up or they are afraid to. Many suffer cognition problems that render them unable to speak out.
Reporters offered no insight as to why these elder abuse figures might be up so substantially.
One possibility is that awareness of the problem is increasing.
Perhaps too older folks feel more connected to the outside world. Although older generations would be less likely than younger ones to be in-touch with social media and other burgeoning technology, one could surmise these individuals’ access to the internet or at least a cell phone could open the doors of information and communication, leaving victims less isolated than before.
We also too can’t overlook the fact that our population overall is aging. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that between 2012 and 2050, the population over the age of 65 will almost double from 43.1 million to 83.7 million. Meanwhile, the number of well-staffed nursing facilities and adequately-trained caregivers isn’t keeping pace.
The Administration on Aging offers up these signs of elder abuse:
- Bruises, broken bones, abrasions, pressure marks or burns;
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities;
- Unusual depression;
- Bedsores, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss;
- Sudden changes in financial situation.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Elder abuse on the rise in Florida, May 31, 2016, By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel
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