February 1, 2013

The Use of Senior Shelters Rising

by Levin & Perconti

The changing demographics of the United States are well documented. The population is getting older. With birth rates flattening, there are more people aging than there are new children being born. Therefore, the percentage of elderly individuals as a fraction of the total population is growing and will continue to do so for the next few decades.

This is not some statistical factoid that has little practical application. On the contrary, the changing nature of the population has very serious effects on different political and social issues. All of us will be affected in one way or another and it is critical for more people to understand the situation so that educated voices can contribute to the national discussion about what government policies and private advocacy programs to pursue.

More Seniors Equals More Senior Abuse
The sad reality is that with more elderly community members comes more reports of seniors being mistreated: emotionally, physically, and financially. Much of the abuse is perpetrated by friends and family members of the senior. While nursing homes and assisted living facilities are important locations for those who need extra care, millions of seniors instead move in with family members or supposed friends to receive help to get by each day. Tragically, those individuals often neglect or abuse the senior who is relying on them for support.

One way that the growth in the elder mistreatment is demonstrated is with the growth of emergency senior shelters. These are locations set up for seniors who have nowhere else to turn when they are living in abusive situations. An ABC News story discussed the plight of many at these shelters, noting that the availability of support is still far below the need.

Elder Abuse Still A Hidden Problem
For those of us working day and night on these senior care issues, it is hard to imagine that elder abuse is little of thought of by the community at large. But the reality is that strides to tackle the elder abuse problem are minimal and nothing like the efforts to deal with abuse of other at-risk groups, like children.

Senior abuse shelters are few and far between. Many that do exist are connected with private retirement communities. Some public bodies are working to address the problem, but their efforts are usually stymied by limited public resources and a constant desire to cut costs. Spending money on efforts to catch elder abusers or support victims is hard to come by.

The ABC article notes how several directors of senior shelters are working to beef up preventative measures. They report that it is far costlier to deal with an abusive situation that has deteriorated to the point where a senior is forced into a shelter. Instead, it is better to the catch problem very early on to spare the senior prolonged pain and suffering. That requires training various members of the community--from police officers and bank tellers to hair stylists and lawyers--on the ways to recognize the signs elder abuse.

If you or a loved one may have been harmed by elder neglect or abuse in our area, please contact the Chicago elder abuse lawyers at our firm to see how we can help.

See Other Blog Posts:

Understanding Medicaid & Long-Term Senior Care

The Cost of Nursing Home Care & Future Challenges