July 12, 2016
Elder Abuse Not Unique to James and Etta Jennings’ Overwhelming Story
The National Institute of Justice funded a study that revealed 1 in 10 seniors reported being abused or neglected in the previous year, with financial exploitation of seniors estimated in the ballpark of $2.9 billion dollars annually.
In July of 2010, Jeannie Beidler approached her grandparents, James and Etta Jennings’ home and was met with disbelief. Paramedics, police and Adult Protective Services social workers were already on the scene.
“You could smell the stench of urine and feces,” she says, standing at the foot of the driveway. “From this point, we already knew what we were about to walk into.”
The Jenning’s son was supposed to be caring for them, but something had undoubtedly went terribly wrong. The Jennings did not have running water or even a fan. James was confined to a chair. His blood pressure was high and he was slipping in and out of consciousness. Etta was living on a broken bed, infested with maggots.
Beidler was distraught.
“To think how could this have happened to her? I can’t think of a sadder moment in my life or a heavier moment in my life than that,” she says.
Despite the sadness and horror of letting two elderly parents waste away, neglect is not uncommon for seniors. Especially for those with dementia and complicated medical conditions who are also at risk for physical and emotional abuse, in addition to financial exploitation.
The National Institute of Justice funded a study that revealed 1 in 10 seniors reported being abused or neglected in the previous year, with financial exploitation of seniors estimated in the ballpark of $2.9 billion dollars annually. Those who experience abuse are more than four times as likely to be admitted to a nursing home or rehab center.
Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services and Administrator of the Administration for Communing Living, believes elder abuse is a crisis. She contends that the efforts to acknowledge elder abuse are four decades behind those of child abuse and 20 years behind those of domestic violence.
“In this society we started and led with children, and we moved to the area of domestic violence and sexual assault,” she says. “Each of those fields can contribute and inform what needs to happen with regard to elder abuse. But it certainly hasn’t been coordinated and a comprehensive approach to put together all of these different resources and really focus specifically on older people.”
Accordingly to Greenlee elder abuse is a problem that is only going to increase as the population ages. The number of Maryland and Virginia residents 65 and older is expected to grow by 88 percent in the next 20 years.
Beidler says it’s a matter of looking out for elder abuse, and choosing not to look away when you find it.
If you suspect someone a loved one or someone you know is the victim of elder abuse, contact us immediately to help ensure the people you care are living with peace and dignity.