When your place your loved one into a nursing home in Virginia, you want to know that they will be safe. Stories of abuse and neglect can heighten your sense of fear and uncertainty.

The National Center on Elder Abuse periodically reports statistical analysis of risk factors associated with elder abuse. While no statistics can adequately predict whether or not someone will become a victim, they can equip you to take preventive measures based on science. These statistics highlight the common types of elder abuse, risk factors for abuse victims and patterns among abusers.

Forms of elder abuse and neglect

The NCEA has reported that physical and psychological abuse, along with neglect, are some of the most common forms of elder abuse nationally. However, financial exploitation is also common, with fraud being the most frequently used method. Sexual abuse of elders is also prevalent.

Risk factors for victims

The data shows that certain factors increase the probability that an elder will become a victim of abuse. While these are not foolproof predictors for individual experience, data shows that certain traits appear at higher rates when considering reports of abuse.

These risk factors include mental health impairments such as dementia and schizophrenia, physical disabilities, poverty and having a history of past abuse. People of color, particularly African Americans, appear to be at higher rates than whites, as are those without a living spouse. In contrast, social supports are inversely proportional to risk — meaning that surrounding your loved one with friends and family members may be an effective protection tool.

Risk factors for abusers

Abuse from other residents in a facility is more common than from staff, though both occur. Outside of nursing homes, abuse is common from family members and live-in caregivers — especially when they live alone with the elder. Data has suggested that abusers are more likely to be male and to be under high stress or have a history of substance abuse, mental health problems and often have a history of encounters with police.

While no statistics can predict the future, awareness of the data on elder abuse can help you better plan for the well-being of your loved one.