The Brazilian government is receiving an average of 102 abuse allegations against elderly people every day, according to a report published Wednesday by the country’s Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights.
The survey found the federal government received 37,454 reports of abuse against the elderly last year, the equivalent of 102 a day. According to the Human Rights Group Dial 100, six out of ten cases (60.7 percent) of abuse come from within the family, with suspects being either the children or grandchildren of the victims. The majority of victims are women.
Antonio Costa, the National Secretary for the Promotion and Defense of the Rights of the Elderly, told Brazil’s O Globo newspaper most cases follow a similar pattern of occurring at home and away from people who may raise suspicions.
“There is an internal conflict: most abusers and victims know each other,” he said. “In marital cases, for example, women do not denounce because they are afraid of their partners, or that the children lose the financial contribution given by the man.”
The most common complaints are of negligence (38 percent), psychological abuse such as humiliation and harassment (26.5 percent), and financial abuse, in which the finances of the victim are stolen or retained against their will.
Sandra Rabello, a specialist in gerontology at the Brazilian Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology, said that some cases of abuse may be due to lack of knowledge of how to treat the elderly. “Relatives have difficulty coping with the aging process, the manifestation of degenerative diseases and, through exhaustion with this continuous care, may commit acts of violence or neglect against the elderly,” she told the Brazilian daily.
She also explained that the country’s recent economic woes – a product of nearly two decades of corrupt socialist rule that ended in January – have made individuals more likely to steal from their elders. “With the economic crisis and rising unemployment, we often see cases of people appropriating their relative’s pensions,” she said.
Abuse of the elderly is a worldwide problem, including within the United States. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, abuse of the elderly remains a “silent condition,” as “no one knows exactly how many of our nation’s elderly are being exploited, neglected or abused.”
“Evidence suggests that there are thousands of elderly people being harmed in the U.S. every day, but no official statistics exist,” the Center notes. “Part of the problem is that there it is unclear exactly what acts or omissions constitute abuse and the rate of reporting is low. There is also no collection of comprehensive national data, as each state collects data on elder abuse differently.” However, they estimate that between “1-2 million U.S. citizens 65 years of age or older have been mistreated, exploited or injured by a caregiver.”