Elder abuse is a widespread problem with approximately 11% of all elder people being abused every year – but the sad fact of the matter is that not everybody reports it, either. In the United States, there are more than 40 million people that are aged 65 years or older. This means that at least 4 million elderly people are abused every year in this country. Elder abuse is knowing, intentional, and negligent. Unfortunately, most incidents of elder abuse are committed by someone who knows the victim. Sometimes these people are caregivers or even family members, at an astounding 90% of all abuse reports. (1)
Reporting Rules and Statistics For New Jersey
In New Jersey, statistics indicate that abuse occurs across all types of socioeconomic, racial, and religious lines. The New Jersey State Nurses Association condemns all forms of elder abuse, where they understand in their own state that more than 70,000 older people are at risk of being physically, emotionally, or financially abused or neglected. It is also a sad statistic that reports are so low – less than 4% of elder abuse crimes are reported in New Jersey each year. They believe that, according to demographics, by 2050 older people in the U.S. will constitute one-fourth of the population, which means that elder abuse may also be on the rise. (2)
State law in New Jersey requires that any caretaker, social worker, physician, registered nurse, or other professional with reasonable cause to suspect that there is abuse or exploitation taking place, shall report this information to the Office of the Ombudsman For the Institutionalized Elderly. If these people do not report cases of abuse, they may be fined up to $5,000 as a penalty. (3)
The Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is very serious and can come in many forms. The Nationals Center on Elder Abuse has actually defined seven general categories into which most cases of elder abuse fall. They are the following:
- Physical Abuse: This includes using physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. It can involve striking, hitting, beating, pushing, slapping, burning, and more. Inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints and force-feeding can also be seen as physical abuse.
- Emotional Abuse: This is the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. It can include verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment.
- Sexual Abuse: This is defined as non-consensual contact of any kind with an elderly person, which includes things like unwanted touching, all types of sexual assault and battery, rape, and sexually explicit photographing.
- Neglect: Neglect is the refusal to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elder person. It can include failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder or the failure on the part of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care. It is the refusal or failure to provide an elderly person with life necessities like food, water, clothing, shelter, and more.
- Abandonment: This is when an elderly person is deserted by someone who has assumed responsibility for providing care for him or her or has physical custody of him or her.
- Financial Exploitation: Exploitation, defined, is an illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. It could include cashing an elder’s checks without permission, forging a signature, or deceiving them into signing any type of document.
- Self-Neglect: This is characterized as the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his or her own health or safety. It generally manifests itself in an older person as a refusal or failure to provide themselves with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, and more. This excludes a situation in which a mentally competent older person makes a conscious decision to engage in acts that threaten his or her health or safety as a matter of personal choice. (4)
If you suspect that a loved one is being abused, you can contact an attorney you trust. They will work with you to answer your questions about the complex laws that surround such a case. Call MDL in New Jersey today for a free consultation!