Elder Abuse Caught on Tape

Many people don't recognize or report abuse of the elderly, which has increased.

Oct. 16, 2007 — -- Anastasia Olouch, a caretaker seen beating 90-year-old John Taylor in a shocking hidden-camera video, escaped to her native Kenya last month.

The chances of her being captured are slim. But the problem of elder abuse isn't going away anytime soon.

There are currently 1.6 million elderly Americans who are cared for by nursing home assistants, and that number is expected to reach 5 million over the next 20 years.

Having someone else look after aging parents is a tough decision to make, and is made even tougher by fact that one of four nursing homes has been blamed for the death or serious injury to a resident each year, according to government figures.

"There are many forms of elder abuse. Physical abuse is certainly one. Verbal abuse is another," said Elinor Ginzler of the American Association of Retired People.

If You See It, Say Something

According to estimates by the National Center on Elder Abuse, between 1 million and 2 million Americans aged 65 or older have been abused, mistreated or exploited by a caregiver -- whether a relative or paid health aide.

Experts say there could be many more unreported cases.

"For every one case of elder abuse that is reported there are as many as four that go unreported," said Bob Blancato of the Elder Justice Coalition.

Many people are afraid to speak up, or they simply don't recognize signs of abuse, even when it is right in front of them, as an ABC News "Primetime" investigation revealed.

For its series on ethical dilemmas, "Primetime" set up a scenario using two actors in a local park.

For two days, hidden cameras recorded the reactions of passersby as an elderly, wheelchair-bound man was screamed at and even struck by someone who appeared to be there to take care of him.

Out of more than 100 potential witnesses, 75 of them kept walking without saying a word.

"It points to a certain level of denial that is rampant in this country about the issue of elder abuse," Blancato said.

The ones who did intervene used a variety of methods, from calling 911 to directly confronting the abuser.

The people who reported what they saw did the right thing, Blancato said: "If you don't report it, you can't stop it."

If you suspect that your loved one may be the victim of abuse, here are some tips from the experts:

Visit your loved one frequently.

Get to know the in-house nurses and doctors at the home.

Some experts even suggest investing in stand-alone hidden cameras and digital video recorders. All recordings are time and date stamped.