Why Does Elder Abuse Go Unreported?

Elder abuse is believed to be widely under-reported. The National Center of Elder Abuse has said that only one of every 14 cases of elder abuse is reported, while others put the number as high as one out of every 23 cases. All told, however, the Senate Special Commission on Aging estimates that there may be as many as 5 million victims of elder abuse a year.

But with new laws which expand the definition of mandated reporter, why do so many cases of elder abuse go unreported? Experts believe that elderly victims fail to report for a number of reasons:

• No Family To Report Abuse To – Elders being abused may not have family members to talk to about abuse. If the abuse is occurring at the hand of a caretaker in a nursing home facility for example, and the elder has no remaining family, they may not report the abuse.

• Fear Of Retaliation – Elders being abused in a residential nursing facility may be fearful that reporting the abuse will only result in worse abuse from their caregivers.

• Shame In Regards To Abuse – Elders may feel ashamed of abuse being directed towards them, and feel too embarrassed to talk about it with someone they trust. This is a common phenomenon that victims of any type of abuse may experience.

• Fear Of Loss Of Independence – This is particularly true of elders who still live alone, but have a caregiver who comes to their home. Because of a fear that they will be forced into a residential facility, they often don’t report abuse at the hands of family members or private caregivers.

• Fear of Upsetting The Family – Elders who are being abused by a family member may not report the abuse for fear of bringing shame to the family, or causing problems within the greater family dynamic.

• Lack Of Understanding Of How To Report – Elders may be reluctant to report abuse simply because they don’t know who to report it to, or how to file a report.

There is no excuse for elder abuse, nor any shame in being a victim of elder abuse. If you or someone you know has been abused, report the incident immediately. To report elder abuse in San Diego, contact: San Diego County Aging and Independent Services 9335 Hazard Way, Suite 100 San Diego, CA 92123 (858) 495-5660; (800) 510-2020; (800) 339-4661.

Christopher C. Walton is a San Diego, California elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse & neglect. If you believe you or somebody you know has been subjected to abuse while as a resident of a nursing home, or in their own home, contact Chris at (866) 338-7079 for a free and confidential consultation. Cases are handled on a contingency basis.