Elder abuse, neglect on the rise in Virginia

Elder abuse, neglect on the rise in Virginia
In the 2018 fiscal year, there were nearly 12,000 substantiated cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly or disabled adults.

Year after year, Virginia’s adult protective services workers see more cases of adult abuse, neglect and exploitation — a problem that promises to intensify as the number of older people grows and the state’s caseworkers struggle to keep up with demanding workloads.

In the 2018 fiscal year, there were nearly 12,000 substantiated cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly or disabled adults. Since 2016, the number has jumped by about 1,000 each year, according to a new report from the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services’ Adult Protective Services Division.

The total number of reports that APS workers received grew by almost 16 percent between 2017 and 2018.

Paige McCleary, the division’s director, said she’s concerned about the rising numbers, worker burnout and ever-increasing caseloads.

“Those substantiated cases do require resources to address the issue in many circumstances,” she said. “Our funding has remained rather stagnant over the last several years, so our workers are quite creative in trying to address someone’s needs in the community.”

Her concerns are amplified by a growing elderly population. By 2035, people over age 65 are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.