When we think of our nation's elderly (referred to as senior citizens), we often see them as people who have had the good fortune of experiencing the longevity that most of us can only hope for, and in many instances, they're the individuals who have spent a great portion of their lives paving the way for all of us. If there's ever a group of individuals who deserve to be paid homage by their nation, they're our senior citizens. The reality, however, is dreadfully far more tragic, especially considering the level of abuse and neglect that many of our senior citizens and disabled are facing today in America alone.

The cornerstones of our society

Due to various physical and mental challenges that have aflicted millions of our elderly, they're regularly entrusted to health-care providers in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and even in the privacy of their own homes, all with the expectation that these valuable individuals are going to be given the highest regard in their treatment. Too often in the end, it proves to be disastrous for them, due to the kind of abuse, neglect, and other forms of maltreatment that too many of these senior citizens fall victim to. This was clearly the case for Cornerstone Living Center of Winston Salem, North Carolina. After completing a thorough investigation several months ago, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services was shocked and appalled to discover that the abusive practices of the facility and its staff were some of the worst ever encountered.

According to reports, many of the facility's residents were victims of physical, sexual, and financial abuse while residing at Cornerstone. The report stated that there were several cases of unreported physical abuse and neglect, and that several residents would regularly leave the grounds to assemble in a nearby wooded area where they would engage in heavy drinking and reckless sexual activities.

The investigators discovered old dirty mattresses that belonged to the facility, deliberately placed in the woods, as well as countless empty alcohol containers. More disturbingly, according to the report, several staff members were aware of these activities and simply ignored them, despite the fact that it was known that some of the residents involved in these activities were infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

The report also stated that the facility was found to be unclean and infested with bedbugs, and that there were several unreported incidents of residents gone missing for days. As expected, the investigators took immediate action by removing all residents and revoking their licence to operate -- which forced immediate closure. Though many will agree that the urgent action of the state's investigators is commendable, it's important to realize that Cornerstone is just one of the many elderly facilities that engage in these kinds of practices.

Ending the abusive cycle

The abuse and neglect of our senior citizens present a major crisis for us as a nation, and one that cannot continue. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 20% of the entire United States population will consist of citizens between the ages of 65 and older by 2050.

The studies also show that 1 in 10 senior citizen have endured sexual or physical abuse by a caregiver or family member, and for each single incident reported, it's believed that approximately 24 cases are unreported. These numbers are staggering today, and unless we act now, one can only fear what's to come by the year 2050. States must become more vigorous in their involvement with the licensing process, as well as the internal practices of these facilities if we're going to eliminate this kind of abuse.