The United States Census Bureau predicts that the nation’s population of older adults nationwide will have doubled from 49.2 million in 2016 to 94.7 million in 2060.
As the population grows as well as ages, elder abuse remains a significant concern. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 10 percent of older adults experience some form of abuse each year. In addition to physical harm, elder abuse can also encompass financial exploitation, neglect, and emotional abuse.
Elder abuse can lead to a number of negative outcomes, per the World Health Organization. Older adults who experience abuse are more likely to suffer depression, physical injuries, cognitive decline, and premature death.
To raise awareness of this issue, WalletHub evaluated elder abuse protections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The list for 2024 identifies the best and worst states for residents aged 65 and older. Overall scores take into consideration more than a dozen different metrics for each state and D.C. These include total counts of elder abuse complaints, funds spent on prevention, and the number of elder care organizations.
Here are the key findings from WalletHub’s research:
3 States With the Best Protections for Older Adults in 2024
Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Ohio rank as the top three states with the best protections for older adults. The highest-ranking state was Wisconsin.
The Badger State has the best elder abuse prevention and assistance in the country, according to WalletHub. Many state programs and nonprofit organizations there are serving older adults, including the following:
Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network (WAAN) is a network of organizations advocating for older adults.
- Individuals can report elder abuse to the Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline by phone or through its online reporting tool.
The state invests highly in elder abuse prevention programs – three times more per older resident than the national average.
Wisconsin also implemented legislation to protect aging adults from financial exploitation. One law allows prosecutors to freeze the funds and assets of people accused of financially exploiting an older person.
Elder abuse shelters offer protection for Wisconsin seniors. Only 21 other states have shelters for victims of elder abuse.
Following Wisconsin, Massachusetts ranks as the second-best state for elder protection. It also spends the most of any state on protections against abuse of older adults. (Wisconsin spends the third-highest amount of any state.)
Massachusetts law protects victims of elder abuse through its mandatory abuse reporting law and elder protective service program. Per Mass.gov, mandated reporters, which include health care professionals, health aides, and social workers, must inform their local protective services agency when they see signs of elder abuse.
The state has low rates of home-care elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Since 2020, it has had the second-lowest complaint rate.
Compared with Wisconsin and other states, Massachusetts has yet to invest as much in its long-term care ombudsman program. These kinds of state programs advocate for residents in long-term care centers. (Learn more about how ombudsmen programs strive to assist aging adults in long-term care who are experiencing abuse.)
After Wisconsin and Massachusetts, Ohio ranks third overall in WalletHub’s list for 2024.
Ohio has made significant investments in its long-term care ombudsman program. There are opportunities for residents to volunteer with the program. The Ohio Department of Aging reports that volunteers visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities, inform residents of their rights, and report observations of abuse.
Like Massachusetts, Ohio has mandatory reporting laws. Educational programs also educate the public about elder abuse.
Unfortunately, Ohio has a high financial fraud rate. It is the 10th-highest among the 50 states and D.C., which suggests that Ohio needs to take additional steps to protect elders from financial exploitation.
The Worst Places for Older Adults
According to WalletHub, the three states with the lowest overall score in protecting elders are Montana, Utah, and California. California also ties for the highest number of elder abuse complaints per 100,000 older residents, after Nevada and South Carolina.
Four states tie for the lowest amount of spending on protections for this population: Louisiana, Georgia, Maine, and Montana.
The states with the best-quality nursing homes, meanwhile, include Hawaii, Alaska, and North Dakota. Louisiana comes in last on this measure for 2024.
The District of Columbia boasts the highest total long-term care ombudsman program funding per senior, tied with Alaska. Each of these locations spends 15 times more than the state with the lowest spending in this area, Tennessee.
Spotting Elder Abuse
WalletHub also provides recommendations for identifying elder abuse. The following could indicate abuse:
Abnormal bank or credit card activity
New “friends,” who could be scammers
Irregular posts or recent connections with strangers on social media
Updates to legal documents, such as new will beneficiaries or agents under a power of attorney
Behavior changes, including sadness and fearfulness
Worsening personal care conditions
Where does your state rank for 2024 according to WalletHub? Check out the full list, from best to worst, of states’ elder abuse protections.
Work With an Elder Law Attorney
Contact an elder law attorney near you if you suspect abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. An attorney can protect the rights of victims of elder abuse.
In addition, check out the following articles for further helpful information: