All states and the federal government have enacted laws protecting women, children, workers, and persons with disabilities. Laws have also been enacted to protect the elderly. More than 200,000 elder abuse cases are reported annually in Maryland. It is estimated that five times more of that amount remains unreported. Experts report that victims do not report abuse because they fear they will not be believed or because abusers threaten to harm them or their families.
A report by the National Institute of Justice indicated that 11% of people 60 years of age or older are victims of abuse or neglect each year and are twice as likely to die as a result of injuries within a year. Studies also reveal that most elder abuse occurs in the victim’s home and that 90% of abusers are family members or persons who assist or advise the victim in financial matters and so on.
A Federal Report of the Senate Special Committee on Aging noted that one-third of nursing homes in Maryland have been cited for abuses of potential or serious threats to life, and that more than 3,000 elderly Residents died in only one year.
The Maryland Legislature passed several laws against elder abuse after stating “Dependent adults are often confused, medicated, or otherwise mentally or physically disabled, and therefore less able to protect themselves or to identify or report a Criminal conduct. Because of this, they should receive special protection. ”
Protected victims include “elders” who are defined as someone 65 years of age or older, regardless of their physical or mental condition. Elder abuse laws are almost identical to anti-child abuse laws in terms of defining criminal behavior and punishments imposed.
Elder abuse is Felony if the abuser consciously or negligently subjects the victim to unreasonable physical pain or mental suffering, or allows anyone else to do so, under circumstances that are likely to cause great physical harm, and it should have been known that the victim was elderly. Economic exploitation is also an abuse of the elderly under the law.
Felony punishment for elder abuse is 2 to 4 years in state prison, up to $ 10,000 fine, restitution to the victim, mandatory counseling, and formal parole. If the victim actually suffers a major physical injury, an additional 3 to 7 years in prison can be imposed. In less serious circumstances where there is no likelihood of great physical harm, but only “could have endangered the life or health of the victim,” the case may be recorded as a misdemeanor. These cases are punished with up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $ 6,000, restitution, conserjería and non-formal parole.
Doctors, medical professionals, clergy, medical facilities, and caregivers are required by law to report suspected elder abuse. Failure to do so can result in a 6-month prison sentence and a one-thousand-dollar fine.