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Elder Abuse in the United States

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue: 255 Dated: November 2006 Pages: 16-19
Date Published
November 2006
4 pages
Publication Series
After discussing why abuse of the elderly is so difficult to detect and prosecute, this article summarizes the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) portfolio of research intended to help identify forensic markers that can be used as evidence in prosecuting the perpetrators of elder abuse.
Elder abuse is often not detected because the professionals who work with elderly people have not been trained to distinguish between injuries caused by mistreatment and those caused by accidents, illness, or aging. Even if a doctor suspects abuse, police officers are rarely trained to investigate elder abuse. Prosecutions of those charged with elder abuse are also impeded by the lack of a sufficient number of qualified experts who can testify to a reasonable medical certainty that the injuries found were the result of abuse or neglect. In an effort to address these issues, NIJ has funded a number of studies. One study is examining factors that can differentiate between accidental and intentionally inflicted bruising of elderly individuals. The data obtained will assist medical personnel in developing a set of forensic markers for the detection of elder abuse that produces bruises on the victim. Another NIJ-funded study is examining data on the deaths of elderly residents in long-term care facilities in order to identify potential markers of abuse. A third study is examining the deaths of elderly people who reside in the community, so as to isolate risk factors and identify potential markers of abuse. Researchers are also examining how psychological conditions place elderly individuals at risk for abuse, particularly sexual abuse. 15 notes

Date Published: November 1, 2006