Elder abuse amongst Latinos increases says study

FRESNO, Calif.

According to researchers at University of Southern California, 40-percent of the Spanish speaking elders sampled claim to have been abused or neglected in the past year. USC's Davis School of Gerontology put together this study.

Experts there say, the abuse rate was much higher than previously thought. Officials here in the Central Valley say, they're not surprised.

"We had 15 that went to hearing just this week alone."

When it comes to elder abuse cases, Connie Medina-Flores says she's seen it all. She said, "A lot of it is physical, verbal and financial."

Medina-Flores works as a paralegal for Central California Legal Services. Her job is to assist elder and dependent adults, who have been victimized and are representing themselves in court.

"I would say, yes I'm overwhelmed," Medina-Flores said. "I'm drowning in cases, but the need is out there."

According to a new study, that need is growing, especially in the Latino community. 40-percent of Spanish speaking elders claim to have been abused or neglected within the past year.

-10.7% of that group had been physically abused

-9% said they had been sexually abused

-in addition, almost 17% said they had been exploited financially and close to 12% said they were neglected by their caregivers

-But, fewer than two percent reported the abuse to authorities.

"No, it doesn't surprise me. No. This is really a hidden population."

Veronica Salmeron with Fresno County Adult Protective Services says some cases within the Latino community go unreported because of a language barrier. But, more often than not, victims are scared.

To fix the problem, she suggests hiring someone you know, or who has been professionally screened to act as caregivers. Also, family members and neighbors should observe the subtle signs of abuse.

Salmeron said, "Is this person no longer coming out to water their lawn? Is the mail stacking up?"

As for the elders themselves, teach them not to give out personal information, or allow strangers into their homes. But, most importantly, let them know what their options are, and don't be afraid to use them.

"They just don't know their rights. They don't know there's help out there for them. They don't know there's agencies that exist."

There are an estimated five-million elder abuse cases in the United States every year.



Central California Legal Services

Adult Protective Services

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