Known as the “silent epidemic,” the federal government estimates as many as 1 in 9 Americans over age 60 has experienced some form of elder abuse. Of course, elder abuse can include physical and sexual assault, it can also involve much more subtle types of harm. From financial exploitation to neglect, elder abuse continues to be a growing problem in the United States — particularly as the largest generation, the Baby Boomers, continues to age.
Fortunately for the state of Indiana, their Congressional senators are keenly aware of the problem and its impact on the state’s most vulnerable residents. Late last year, Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly became one of several U.S. Congress members to push on the issue of elder abuse. Specifically, lawmakers from Iowa and Delaware pressed for more information on the issue, along with several private sector healthcare organizations.
In speaking with the Senate in 2015, Senator Donnelly inquired as to why more was not being done on behalf of our nation’s senior citizen population. As well, Iowa’s Senator Charles Grassley sent a letter to Department of Justice head Loretta Lynch asking for information as to how aggressively federal authorities investigate allegations against long-term care facilities receiving Medicaid reimbursements on behalf of residents. More specifically, the Senator inquired as to the severity of punishments doled out against care providers having shared disparaging and private images of residents on social media — which is sadly a growing problem. In a statement by Grassley, “[a]s technology and social media expand, we owe it to our nation’s elderly population to ensure quality nursing home care, which debasement of patients does not fulfill.”
During the exchange, Senator Grassley identified dozens of instances over the past three years of inappropriate social media posts depicting vulnerable, unaware residents. In a statement by the American Healthcare Association, “[w]hile rare, posting these sorts of pictures is wrong….Our association has been actively working in recent months not only to stress the clear violations of an individual’s privacy, but more broadly, to educate staff and personnel on the boundaries needed across all social media platforms.”
Elder abuse on any level is a severe, criminal act that should be reported to authorities immediately. As well, victims of elder abuse may also be able to recover under the state’s civil laws.