Wisconsin Elder Abuse: By the Numbers

In recent years nursing home abuse and other forms of elder abuse have come under increased scrutiny as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age and is confronted with the need for assisted-living care.

Each year, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services publishes an Elder Abuse and Neglect Report, which tracks and analyzes incidents from all county agencies. The elder abuse attorneys at Boller & Vaughan understand the risks faced by seniors who require care, either in their own homes or in a nursing home.

In this post, we discuss some findings from the most recent Elder Abuse and Neglect Report. In total, there were more than 7,300 reports of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation in Wisconsin in 2017 (the year covered by the latest report).

Where Is Elder Abuse Happening?

In more than 80 percent of reported cases, the incidents of neglect, abuse or financial exploitation occurred where the elderly individual lived.

Thoughtful senior man looking away while sitting on wheelchair in nursing home
More than 80 percent of reported instances of elder neglect or abuse occurred where the victim lived.

This includes seniors who lived alone or with others in a private residence, as well as those who lived in nursing homes, community-based residential facilities (CBRFs), licensed adult family homes, and residential care apartment complexes (RCACs). More than 900 reports in 2017 involved some type of elder care facility.

According to the report, nursing homes are the third-most-common site reported in incidents of neglect, abuse or financial exploitation.

Characteristics of At-Risk Elders

One of the most interesting things found within the state’s annual report is a breakdown of at-risk characteristics. This can be especially helpful to proactive families who want help identifying various risk factors as they make the difficult decision to entrust their loved ones to care providers.

Here are the leading traits linked to the likelihood of incident:

Characteristic Percent of Cases
Fragility 43.9
Dementia 27.7
Mobility impaired 18.5
Mental illness 11.2
Medical fragility 13.3
Disorientation or confusion 12.6
Other medical conditions 10
Diabetes 8.6
Incontinence 6.3
Alcohol abuse 5.1

Based on the report, age seems less of a risk factor than other characteristics. For example, individuals between 70 and 79 represented about 32 percent of all reported cases; those aged 80 to 89 comprised about 30 percent of reported incidents; and seniors between 60 and 69 made up about 26 percent of reported cases.

There were some notable statistical discrepancies regarding gender and race, however. In approximately 59 percent of reported cases, the victim was female. In about 70 percent of reported incidents, the victim’s race was identified as white/non-Hispanic.

Reporting Challenges and Getting Help

Regardless of age, gender or race, elder abuse remains underreported. Nationally, it’s estimated that as few as 1 in 14 cases of elder neglect or abuse are reported.

Reporting is complicated by the fact that many victims lack the verbal or cognitive ability to report abuse. In some cases, victims may fear the repercussions of reporting their abuser.

Care Worker Mistreating Elderly Man
Only 1 in 14 cases of elder neglect or abuse is believed to be reported.

Government officials have taken notice and are stepping up oversight of elder care facilities. Private parties are also seeking legal help when facts and evidence give rise to negligence claims.

One of the best ways to avoid misconduct by a third-party caretaker is for family members to be a regular presence and positive partner in the care of their loved ones. Indicators like bedsores, unexplained bruises, sudden behavioral changes, and changes to financial accounts are warning signs of elder abuse that should be taken seriously.

If you suspect a loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse at a nursing home or other assisted-living facility, you can make an anonymous report to the Wisconsin Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at 800-815-0015 or via your local Nursing Home Resident Care regional office.

If you believe an elderly family member is in imminent danger, you should contact local law enforcement or call 911 immediately. As a precaution, it’s wise to document any indicators of neglect or abuse; take photos or video of any injuries, unsanitary conditions, dangerous surroundings, etc.

It’s also advisable to arrange a consultation with a knowledgeable nursing home abuse attorney who can help you understand your legal options, and protect your loved one and others from further abuse. Please call Boller & Vaughan today at 608-268-0268 for a free consultation or contact us online to tell us your story now.

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