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Elder Abuse and Neglect The "Best Kept Secret"
says Eldercare Specialist

Elder abuse, neglect and exploitation are among this country's best kept secrets, says Barbara H. Hance, President of Barbara H. Hance Associates, a Farmington eldercare and lifecare specialist.

Mrs. Hance was a featured speaker at the Fourth Global Conference of the International Federation on Aging, held last week in Montreal, Canada.

She told the international audience that over the past 10 years, there has been an increase of 150% in reported elder abuse in the U.S. Because the numbers are still hidden under the veil of family and personal secrecy, it is impossible to know the actual number of abuse cases. In 1999, the National Center of Elderly Abuse estimated 2.1 million cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

"A large percentage of abusers are caregivers, including family members, children and grandchildren," Mrs. Hance told the Conference. "Many times, it is caused by greed, in addition to economic need and emotional stress."

"It is no surprise that the most frequent abuser is a caregiver," she says. "The role of caregiver is difficult and frustrating. Caregivers often fail to recognize symptoms of "burnout." Hitting, slapping and screaming at the one you care for, or physically restraining them, are signs that the situation is out of control.

"We spend more money on research on longevity than we do with dealing with the psychological effects of aging," she says, "Yet, the aging population is blamed for the burden on taxpayers, for welfare spending, for chaos in the healthcare system and many other crises that face America today."

In less than 12 years, the 76 million Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1954 will begin to join the ranks of older Americans. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by the year 2006, there will be more than 36 million people over the age of 65. By 2020, 20% of Americans will be over 65 (53.2 million), presenting new and more difficult demands for the country and its economy.

Mrs. Hance told the Conference that governments should focus on elder abuse prevention, with specifically-deigned training programs for service providers, police departments and medical personnel, as well as improved cooperation and coordination between state agencies and service providers. She also recommended clearly defined procedures in dealing with abuse and abusers, as well as public awareness campaigns to enable people to more readily recognize and report abuses against the elderly.

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