WalletHub cover report on best states with elder abuse protections

A new report is calling for increased state action to reduce and prevent elder abuse in assisted living communities and other settings.

According to WalletHub, which released its report on 2020’s States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections, as many as 13 out of every 14 elder abuse cases go unreported. The personal finance website compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 16 key indicators of elder abuse protection in three categories: elder abuse, gross neglect and exploitation complaints, and financial elder abuse laws.

Overall, according to the report, Massachusetts topped the list of states with the best elder abuse protections, followed by Wisconsin, Vermont, Michigan and West Virginia. States that ranked among the worst for elder abuse protections were New Jersey, South Carolina, California, Utah and Montana.

Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri and Wisconsin have the most frequent assisted living facility inspections — twice per year — which is five times more frequent than in Nebraska, which has inspections only once every five years. 

Massachusetts and Wisconsin also ranked among the top spenders on elder abuse prevention, along with Rhode Island, Nevada and Wyoming. States spending the least on elder abuse prevention were Hawaii, Washington, Georgia, Louisiana and Montana.

States with the lowest elder abuse, gross neglect and exploitation complaints were Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, New York and Iowa. On the flip side, states with the highest number of complaints included South Carolina, Nevada, California, New Jersey and Tennessee.

Alaska has the highest total long-term care ombudsman program funding, at $8.07 per resident 65 and older, which is 12.8 times higher than Florida, which has the lowest funding, at 63 cents per older resident. Alaska also has the most certified volunteer ombudsmen, at 68 per 100,000 older residents, whereas Alabama, Montana, Mississippi, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming are among the states that have no volunteers.

Financial exploitation, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, emotional and psychological abuse are the most common types of elder abuse, according to a panel of experts consulted for the survey.

Fred Markowitz, Ph.D., a professor at Northern Illinois University, said laws against financial exploitation of older adults exist, but such cases require detection, reporting and investigation.

He and other experts recommend policies that enhance services or interventions, including education and outreach to older adults and their families. 

“Vigorous enforcement of existing laws against the criminal victimization of elderly persons is important,” Markowitz said.