July 6, 2022

Elder abuse epidemic looming, says MacArthur “genius” fellow

A MacArthur genius fellowship awarded to an elder abuse activist highlights the difficulties of ensuring high quality end of life care. Marie-Therese Connolly, 54, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center and the architect of the Elder Justice Act, a law passed by the US Congress last year, has received a US$500,000 grant for her ground-breaking work.

Marie-Therese ConnollyA MacArthur genius fellowship awarded to an elder abuse activist highlights the difficulties of ensuring high quality end of life care. Marie-Therese Connolly, 54, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center and the architect of the Elder Justice Act, a law passed by the US Congress last year, has received a US$500,000 grant for her ground-breaking work.

Ms Connolly has also founded a non-profit, Long Life Justice, to fight elder abuse. Here are some facts and figures from the website:

  • 7.6-11% of people 60+ at home are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation.
  • 47% of people with dementia at home are abused or neglected by their caregivers.
  • For every one case of elder abuse that comes to light, 23.5 do not.
  • 50-90% of nursing homes are understaffed at levels that harm residents.

“Elder abuse includes abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. It occurs in homes and facilities; cuts across all demographic groups; and causes untold suffering and cost, not just for its victims, but also for those who care about and for them. Victims often live their last years–impoverished, injured, neglected and in fear–with little effective assistance, protection or attention from any system.

“Victims of elder abuse suffer more injuries and illnesses and are three times more likely to die sooner than non-victims. In addition to depleting the resources of already stressed individuals and families, elder abuse costs taxpayers billions of dollars annually in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal, state and local program expenditures.

“We are at the early stage of a hidden epidemic. As 77 million baby boomers age and caregiving shortages grow more acute, the problem will grow. Wealth and fame do not provide immunity, as the plight of Mickey Rooney and Brooke Astor show. A 2011 General Accountability Office (GAO) report documents the need for more funding and federal leadership. Yet, our response to elder abuse lags 40 years behind child abuse and 20 years behind domestic violence.” ~ True Dignity Vermont, Sept 24

Michael Cook
end of life