Press Release: News Release May 2003: May is Elder Abuse Awareness month:

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    News Release May 2003: May is Elder Abuse Awareness month

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    For Immediate Release
      CONTACT: Christi Powers
    State Bar of Wisconsin
    (800) 444-9404, ext. 6025
    org cpowers wisbar wisbar cpowers org

    May is Elder Abuse Awareness month
    State Bar Recognizes 19th anniversary of elder abuse prevention law in Wisconsin

    MADISON, May 20, 2003 - The State Bar of Wisconsin joins with national and local leaders in recognizing the month of May as Elder Abuse Awareness month. In conjunction with the national observance of Older Americans Month, Wisconsin marks its 19th anniversary of enacting legislation to prevent elderly abuse.

    Since 1985, more than 41,000 elder abuse or neglect cases have been reported in Wisconsin amounting to an average of nearly 3,300 cases each year. Based on a 1999 report issued by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS), a total of 3,257 cases were reported in 1999 resulting in a 6 percent increase from the previous year. Of those cases, 9 were fatal and 363 were considered life-threatening. Some 1,707 cases were attributed to self-neglect but in the remaining cases a total of 79 percent of the alleged abusers were relatives of the victim.

    "We have state laws and agencies designed to protect our aging citizens," said Attorney Peter E. Grosskopf, chair of the State Bar's Elder Law section. "Unfortunately, a profile of elder abuse shows that these victims are among the most socially isolated and physically vulnerable people who can be psychologically conditioned not to report the abuse," he said.

    The DHFS report shows that Wisconsin's elderly victims are the least likely of all domestic violence victims to seek or accept services. Known to human service professionals as the 'invisible' population, elderly abuse can manifest physically, emotionally and financially and often goes unreported.

    A 1996 national incidence study conducted by the Administration on Aging shows that 551,011 persons, aged 60 years and over, experienced abuse, neglect or self-neglect. By the time people reach 80 years of age, they are two-to-three times more likely to incur abuse or neglect. In 90 percent of the 1996 cases reported nationally, a total of 90 percent of the alleged abusers were relatives of the victim.

    "One of the ways we're addressing the incidence of abuse in Wisconsin is that each county has now formed an elder abuse disciplinary team that will work to promote awareness, coordinate community resources and identify service gaps," Grosskopf said. "Here at the State Bar, our goal is to stay current with new and emerging legislation and also assist in offering informational seminars and literature," he said.

    The State Bar's Continuing Legal Education department offers books and seminars for both the public and legal community. Last year marked the 16th annual Law and the Elderly seminar offering information on pensions, health care, and how to prevent financial exploitation among the elderly. Other State Bar resources include pamphlets, such as "A Gift to Your Family," which provides information about planning for future health care needs. Consumers can order this guide by calling 1-888-LAW-5799. Other low-cost or free literature is available at, the State Bar's one-stop-shop for consumer information.