Forty percent of Los Angeles’ low-income Latino elders have been abused or neglected in past year — but fewer than 2 percent have reported that abuse to authorities.
The study indicates a much higher rate of physical or sexual abuse, psychological abuse, financial exploitation and caregiver neglect among elderly Latinos than experts had previously thought.
Based on Spanish-language interviews by promotores — or health workers in low-income Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles — the researchers found that the longer elderly Latinos had been in the United States, the more likely they were to face abuse or neglect.
The lead author of the report, Marguerite DeLiema, says she feels that Latino immigrants may underreport mistreatment, possibly out of a cultural tendency to resolve conflict within their families - or from fear that contacting authorities could put their families at risk.
“We think that they don’t report abuse or they underreport abuse," she says. "It’s, you know, limited English proficiency, and they’re secluded in these ethnically-homogeneous neighborhoods that are cut off from a lot of the services that they need to get help from others. And also, they depend on their family members for caregivers.”
DeLiema is a doctoral student at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.