States with the Best and Worst Elder-Abuse Protections
Do you know where your state ranks regarding its elder-abuse protections? This new report breaks it down.
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It is estimated that more than 10% of Americans over the age of 60 have experienced elder abuse — a number that is likely higher since recent studies found one in five cases of potential elder abuse aren’t reported to law enforcement.
According to WalletHub, a personal-finance website, the elderly population is especially vulnerable during times of high inflation. Released Wednesday, its report on 2022’s States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections compares 50 states and the District of Columbia across 16 key metrics, including elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints, financial elderly-abuse laws, and quality of nursing homes.
“The most common types of elder mistreatment in long-term care homes include neglect of healthcare, harmful resident-to-resident incidents, emotional/psychological abuse, staff retaliation against residents, financial exploitation, theft of residents’ opioid pain medications, and inappropriate and harmful use of antipsychotic drugs,” Eilon Caspi, gerontologist and dementia behavior specialist, told WalletHub. “The inappropriate and harmful use of physical restraints has been less common in recent years but it still represents a significant concern. In general, staff physical abuse and sexual abuse of residents are less common but their consequences on residents can be deeply traumatic and devastating.”
The report found the 10 states with the best elder-abuse protections are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Washington, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. On the contrary, the 10 states with the worst elder-abuse protections are Oklahoma, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, California, Tennessee, New Jersey, South Carolina, Montana, and Utah. Hover over each state in the chart below to see where your state ranks.
Additional notable findings from the study include:
- The District of Columbia has the highest total long-term care Ombudsman program funding (per resident aged 65 and older) at $9.66 — 13.8 times higher than Florida, which has the lowest at $0.70.
- Alaska has the most certified volunteer Ombudsmen (per 100,000 residents aged 65 and older) at 78. Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota, and West Virginia are among the states that have none.
- Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri, and Wisconsin have the most frequent assisted-living facility inspections at twice per year, which is ten times more frequent than in Nebraska, the state with the lowest frequency at once every five years.
- Alaska has the highest nursing-home quality (share of certified nursing-home beds rated 4 or 5 stars) at 85.5%, which is four times higher than Louisiana, the state with the lowest at 21.4%.
Click through the article’s slideshow to see a further breakdown of the key metric.
What Can Be Done to Protect the Elderly Population?
To better protect the elderly, Peter Giglione, adjunct professor at Duquesne University, told WalletHub that much of the responsibility rests with policymakers.
“Federal and state governments need to strengthen regulations to provide better minimum staffing ratios and to increase penalties for repeat offender nursing homes, such as mandatory admissions ban, high fines (right now, the maximum fines are a joke), and a loss of Medicare funding,” he said.
There are also ways families can protect their elderly family members from being abused financially, says Manish Shah, professor and chair of the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Wisconsin. Her recommendations include:
- Establish a trustworthy financial power of attorney, even with potential oversight of that person
- Establish a contact for financial institutions so the companies can contact someone else if suspicious activity is occuring
The latter, adds Shah, “is particularly important for those with cognitive impairment. Some experts suggest that the likelihood of older adults experiencing abuse – ranging from family violence and neglect to financial scams – has increased in the past year.”
“Ultimately,” she continued, “I think that it is really important to be involved in the lives of loved ones and have a strong relationship with them. That will ensure that any problems are identified early.”
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