Posts Tagged ‘elder justice act’

Elder Advocates Visit U.S. Congress in National Advocacy Day

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment

On September 15, roughly 150 advocates for elder rights from around the United States will be visiting their representatives in the U.S. Congress in an Advocacy Day organized by WITNESS partner NCOA, the National Council on Aging. Among the issues they’ll be advocating for is the passing of the Elder Justice Act (EJA), federal legislation that would provide a foundation to prevent, detect, treat, intervene in and prosecute elder abuse.

Each year, an estimated 5 million elders in the U.S. are subject to physical, financial, and mental abuse resulting in illness, suffering, and premature death.   WITNESS and NCOA are working on a new video that will Break the Silence on this crisis and urge Congress to prioritize and pass the EJA.  Several elders and advocates have already sent their video messages to Congress.  You can take action too!

3 Things You Can Do Now

  1. Sign this petition calling on Congress to Pass the EJA
  2. Call your senators and representatives and ask them to support the EJA
  3. Help Break the Silence and Share Your Story of elder abuse via text or video

Break the Silence: Elder Abuse in America [Video]

There is a silent crisis that effects every community in America: Elder abuse. Each year an estimated 5 million of America’s older adults are beaten, ignored or financially exploited. Yet, as a country, we remain silent about this growing crisis.

To begin to address this problem, Congress has an immediate opportunity to pass federal legislation that will provide a foundation from which we can begin to protect our country’s elders — the Elder Justice Act. But we cannot do this without your help. Please help us break the silence by adding your voice to the national campaign and urge Congress to pass the Elder Justice Act now!

3 Things You Can DO

More Information on the Elder Justice Act and the campaign to get it passed

What the Elder Justice Act is, and why it matters

June 17, 2009 1 comment

The Elder Justice Act (S. 795 / H.R. 2006) creates a combined law enforcement and public health approach to study, detect, treat, prosecute and, most importantly, prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.  After 25 years of congressional hearings on elder abuse without a legislative response, the Elder Justice Act marks the beginning of new horizons in the detection and prevention of elder abuse.

The Elder Justice Act would:

  • Bring elder justice the national attention it needs and deserves.
  • Improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of information about elder abuse.
  • Provide training to combat elder abuse, neglect and exploitation and develop larger forensic capacity and increase prosecution.
  • Increase funding for adult protective services across the country and also provide for victim assistance, “safe havens,” and support for at-risk elders.

Why is this law needed?

  • The number of older Americans is fast growing, and so is the problem of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Support is needed for state and community efforts and those who work on the front lines to prevent, fight and prosecute elder abuse
  • Currently, there are scarce resources and fragmented systems devoted to elder justice across the country.
  • There is inadequate public-private infrastructure and resources to prevent, detect, treat, understand, intervene in and, where appropriate, prosecute elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Elder justice is the right of every older person to be free of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

What would the Act do?
The Elder Justice Act would provide federal resources to support State and community efforts to fight elder abuse.
The Elder Justice Act would promote both aspects of elder justice with the following provisions:

  • Bring elder justice the national attention it needs and deserves.
  • Improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of information about elder abuse.
  • Increase security, collaboration, and consumer information on Long-Term Care.
  • Develop larger forensic capacity and increase prosecution.
  • Provide victim assistance, “safe havens,” and support for at-risk elders.
  • Provide training to combat elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Include special programs to support underserved populations including rural, minority and Indian seniors.
  • Increase knowledge and support promising projects and study model state laws and practices.
  • Ensure evaluation of “what works” and accountability for funds spent.

For more information and resources, please visit the Elder Justice Coalition’s website.

Elder Abuse: Frequently Asked Questions

What is elder abuse?
What are the warning signs of elder abuse?
What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse?
Who are the abusers of older adults?
Are there criminal penalties for the abusers?
How many people are suffering from elder abuse?
How does a person make an elder abuse report?
How can elder abuse be prevented?


What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Perpetrators include children, other family members, and spouses – as well as staff at nursing homes and assisted living and other facilities.

  • Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
  • Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened or physically forced.
  • Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment or intimidation.
  • Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons.
  • Passive neglect is a caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter or medical care.
  • Willful deprivation means denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device or other physical assistance, and exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm — except when the older, competent adult has expressed a desire to go without such care.
  • Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another.

What are the warning signs of elder abuse?

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats and other uses of power and control by individuals are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult are also signs of emotional abuse. top >>

What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse?

Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) are two factors that may make an older adult more vulnerable to abuse. But, in some situations, studies show that living with someone else (a caregiver or a friend) may increase the chances for abuse to occur. A history of domestic violence may also make an older adult more susceptible to abuse. top >>

Who are the abusers of older adults?

Abusers of older adults are both women and men. Family members are more often the abusers than any other group. Data show that adult children were the most common abusers. top >>

Are there criminal penalties for the abusers?

Most states have penalties for those who victimize older adults. Increasingly, across the country, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are trained on elder abuse and ways to use criminal and civil laws to bring abusers to justice. top >>

How many people are suffering from elder abuse?

While it’s estimated that as many as 5 million may suffer some form of elder abuse, it’s difficult to say how many older Americans are abused, neglected or exploited, in large part because surveillance is limited and the problem remains greatly hidden. top >>

How does a person make an elder abuse report?

Anyone who suspects that an older adult is being mistreated should contact an adult protective services office; you can find those offices listed at or through the National Center on Elder Abuse at or by calling 800.677.1116. top >>

How can elder abuse be prevented?

Educating seniors, professionals, caregivers and the public on abuse is critical to prevention. On an individual level keeping safe includes:

  • Take care of your health.
  • Seek professional help for drug, alcohol and depression concerns, and urge family members to get help for these problems.
  • Attend support groups for spouses and learn about domestic violence services.
  • Plan for your own future. With a power of attorney or a living will, health care decisions can be addressed to avoid confusion and family problems in advance. Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
  • Stay active in the community and connected with friends and family. This will decrease social isolation, which has been connected to elder abuse.
  • Post and open your own mail.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone.
  • Use direct deposit for all checks.
  • Have your own phone.
  • Review your will periodically.
  • Know your rights. If you engage the services of a paid or family caregiver, you have the right to voice your preferences and concerns. If you live in a nursing home, call your Long Term Care Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is your advocate and has the power to intervene. top >>

Facts About Elder Abuse in the United States

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment.  Perpetrators include children, other family members, and spouses – as well as staff at nursing homes and assisted living and other facilities.  It has become “the crime of the 21st century” as America rapidly ages.

  • Nearly five million cases of elder abuse occur each year, but 85% go unreported.
  • The typical victim of elder abuse is a woman over 75 who lives alone.
  • Some 14,000 allegations of abuse, neglect or gross negligence are reported in nursing homes.
  • Close to 50% of those with dementia experience some form of abuse.
  • Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who are not mistreated.
  • Elder financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion per year.
  • Family, friends, caregivers and neighbors are the culprits in financial abuse cases more than half the time.
  • Less than 2% of federal abuse prevention dollars go to elder mistreatment efforts. 91% is spent on child abuse and 7% on domestic abuse.
  • Financial abuse accounts for nearly 21% of the allegations of mistreatment investigated by Adult Protective Services.
  • By 2030, the numbers of older Americans over age 85 – those most at risk for abuse – will more than double.

A Silent Crisis: Elder Abuse and Justice in America

June 16, 2009 1 comment

My grandmother’s life intersected squarely with the unprecedented rise in life expectancy for all elders. This rise has also led to one of our greatest silent crises: elder abuse.

About same time Alzheimer’s began to cloud my grandmother’s once sharp mind, she heard a knock on the door of her 3rd floor apartment in Des Moines, Iowa. She opened it to find a friendly salesman selling John F. Kennedy half-dollars made out of pure gold in a frame with a blue velvet backing. They made an exchange –she handed him a check for $900 and the swindler gave her one dollar in coins.


For millions of elderly people in the United States just like my grandmother, living longer has also meant living in silent fear, battered and beaten, preyed upon, often quieted by shame. Elder abuse is a prolific problem that comes in many forms – physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, with many elders suffering more than just one type of abuse. Of the five million elders estimated to suffer abuse in the U.S. alone each year, the vast majority are subject to multiple forms of mistreatment. They are also three times more likely to die prematurely than those who are not victimized.

Yet, elder abuse is not perceived as a national tragedy. No one talks about it. Silence remains, in part, because many of our elders are isolated by and dependent on those who hurt them, and the perceived shame and stigma of disclosing that they are suffering at the hands of their own caregiver can act as a powerful silencer. But abuse also stays hidden because many older Americans don’t have the means or the capacity to report it.

At the rare times when elder abuse is publicly discussed, the conversations usually feature the voices Elder Justice advocates, social workers or journalists. A typical example is this CBS News report from 2006. Only occasionally do we get a glimpse into the elders’ views which can be seen in this video taken at an elder justice rally.

Insights from these experts are critical in the fight to secure justice for older Americans but so is the wisdom from these elders themselves, and to date their voices have been absent from the debate that affects them most directly.

I was surprised to learn how deeply buried this issue is because elder abuse touches us all. It cuts across gender, social, racial, ethnic, economic and geographic lines – yet it’s rarely mentioned in social justice or human rights circles nationally or even internationally. Key UN documents from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Millennium Development Goals omit any mention of age. And here at home the U.S Congress has yet to pass comprehensive federal legislation to protect our oldest members of society, placing it 20 years behind advocacy to protect children from abuse and 10 years behind the work to end domestic violence.


To address this colossal fissure in our laws, more than 500 members of the Elder Justice Coalition (EJC) have been vigilantly working over the course of the last decade to secure the passage of the Elder Justice Act (EJA) through Congress. Passing this Act will provide us with a foundation from which we can begin to protect our society’s elders because it will provide long-needed support for programs to help us understand how to prevent and detect abuse, intervene where it happens, treat victims with dignity and respect, and fairly prosecute perpetrators.

Yet despite the EJA’s principled objectives and many years of effort, one of the authors of the Act, Marie-Therese Connolly explains, “Comprehensive federal laws to combat child abuse and domestic violence have had an immense impact for decades. By contrast, the relatively uncontroversial Elder Justice Act has languished (in Congress) since 2002.” With the recent changes in Washington, now is the time to pass this act and give America’s elders the security, dignity and equality they deserve.


So why is this important to WITNESS? We are partnering with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) – which has been working on behalf of disadvantaged and vulnerable Elders for over 60 years – to bring the voices of Older Americans to this debate, heighten the visibility of Elder abuse, and end Congressional complacency. In addition to securing passage of the EJA, WITNESS and NCOA will work with Elder Justice organizations across the country, training activists in strategic video advocacy planning and giving them the skills necessary to collect stories of abuse to bring Elder Justice into the national conversation.

Once footage from across the country has been gathered and edited, we will collaborate to reach key Congressional representatives, the national media and our citizenry with compelling stories which will force us to face our elders, end our collective denial and pass the EJA.


WITNESS and NCOA are just beginning work on the planning of this video advocacy campaign. We’d like you to join in as we move forward with this campaign to pass the Elder Justice Act and showcase the voices of older Americans:

• Return to the Hub Blog for updates on the production process in the weeks and months ahead

• Sign up for the Video for Change newsletter for updates on the Elder Justice Campaign

• Read more about the work of the NCOA at, and

• Visit the site of the Elder Justice Coalition at

Most of all though, we ask you to listen as we bring the voices of American’s elders to you throughout this campaign. Please hear what they have to say. Respect their voice. Value their wisdom. Add yours.

[This post was written by Nicole Schilit, WITNESS’ North America Program Intern, and Kelly Matheson, North America Program Coordinator]

This post originally appeared on WITNESS’ Hub.