Abuse happens every day and takes many forms. But vulnerable older Americans are among the easiest targets for this misconduct, especially those who are women, have disabilities and rely on others for care. By one estimate, elder abuse affects as much as 10% of the population older than 60, and many cases go unreported. Our elderly population is especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s especially important to make sure they have adequate living conditions and don’t get taken advantage of financially.
Unless states take action to prevent further abuse, the problem will grow as America becomes an increasingly aging nation. The U.S. Census Bureau expects the population aged 65 and older to nearly double from 43.1 million in 2012 to 85.7 million in 2050, much to the credit of aging Baby Boomers who began turning 65 in 2011. And by just 2030, 1 in 5 U.S. residents will be retirement age.
Fortunately, states recognize that elder abuse is a real and growing issue. But sadly, only some are fighting hard enough to stop it. WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 16 key indicators of elder-abuse protection in 3 overall categories. Our data set ranges from the “share of elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints” to “financial elder-abuse laws.”
States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections
|Overall Rank||State||Total Score||Prevalence||Resources||Protection|
|15||District of Columbia||46.18||35||7||6|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric.
Ask the Experts
There are ways for families, organizations and lawmakers to protect America’s elderly population. We consulted a panel of experts in fields such as social welfare and aging for insight and advice. Read about the panelists and their thoughts on the following key questions below:
- What are the most common types of elder abuse?
- How can policymakers protect the elderly from abuse, financial or otherwise?
- Should a caregiver be legally allowed to financially benefit from the death of the person he or she was caring for?
- What can families do to protect elderly family members from financial abuse?
- 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. What steps can be taken to reduce the risk of elder abuse during the pandemic?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the states with the best protection against elder abuse, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Prevalence, 2) Resources and 3) Protection.
We evaluated these dimensions using 16 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was scored on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing the “best protection against elder abuse.”
Finally, we determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Prevalence – Total Points: 40
- Share of Elder-Abuse, Gross-Neglect and Exploitation Complaints: Triple Weight (~24.00 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated by dividing the number of elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints by the number of residents aged 65 and older. “Complaints” include those made to the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
- Estimated Elder Fraud Rate: Full Weight (~8.00 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated by dividing the number of elder fraud reports by the number of elderly residents. “Elder fraud”, also called “elder financial abuse” or “elder financial exploitation”, is defined as the misappropriation or abuse of financial control in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, resulting in harm to the elderly victim.
- Elder Fraud Loss Amount per Reported Frauds: Full Weight (~8.00 Points)
Resources – Total Points: 30
- Total Expenditures on Elder-Abuse Prevention per Resident Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated by dividing the total dollars spent on elder-abuse prevention by the number of residents aged 65 and older.
- Total Expenditures on Legal-Assistance Development per Resident Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated by dividing the total dollars spent on legal assistance development by the number of residents aged 65 and older.
- Total Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Funding per Resident Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated by dividing the total dollars spent on long-term ombudsman program funding by the number of residents aged 65 and older.
Protection – Total Points: 30
- Financial Elderly-Abuse Laws: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This is a binary metric that considers the presence or absence of such legislation.
- Eldercare Organizations & Services per 100,000 Residents Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Presence of Elder-Abuse Forensic Centers: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of Elder Abuse Forensic Centers in a state.
- Presence of Elder Abuse Working Groups: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: An “Elder-Abuse Working Group” is defined by the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center as “an entity such as a task force, council, commission, or non-profit organization, convened to address elder abuse issues at the state level.”
- Certified Volunteer Ombudsmen per 100,000 Residents Aged 65 & Older: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Frequency of Assisted-Living Facilities Inspections: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Quality of Nursing Homes: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the share of certified nursing-home beds rated 4 or 5 stars.
- Presence of Laws Allowing Surveillance Cams in Nursing Homes: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of state laws allowing surveillance cameras in nursing homes:
1 – State has laws that allow placement of surveillance cameras in the rooms of nursing home residents;
0.5 – State uses guidelines and programs instead of laws to keep residents safe;
0 – State doesn’t have laws that allow placement of surveillance cameras in the rooms of nursing home residents.
- Presence of Elder Justice Task Forces: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of an Elder Justice Task Force in a state.
- Presence of Elder-Abuse Shelters: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This binary metrics measures the presence or absence of elder-abuse shelters in a state.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Aging Integrated Database, National Conference of State Legislatures, Administration on Aging - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, California State Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians & Public Conservators, National Center on Elder Abuse, U.S. Department of Justice, Comparitech, SeniorLiving.org, Nursing Home Abuse Center and United Health Foundation.