By the time the ambulance showed up to the house, the old woman’s screams were, as the paramedics would later tell it, already at a 10 out of 10.
On a bed in the foyer lay 88-year-old Cynthia Thoresen, her eyes screwed up in agony, her fists clenched, with an untended broken leg. Feces caked her body, from her arms down to her feet, filling the crevices between her toes and under her fingernails.
The fact that Cynthia even lived in the house was a surprise to most of the neighbors. None had ever seen her. None had any idea she’d spent her final days in hellish pain after a fall. None knew that her daughter and caretaker, Marguerite Thoresen, had waited weeks before calling for help, or that the help would come far too late.
In the end, Cynthia Thoresen joined a large and growing cohort of elderly people across the world who live — and increasingly die — in silence. They are unseen and unheard, left to fend for themselves against a problem society has barely begun to notice, let alone fix: elder abuse.
This type of abuse, which in many cases includes neglect, is still so hidden that it is hard to quantify. But the broad picture gleaned from hundreds of interviews and dozens of studies reviewed by The Associated Press is clear: Tens of millions of elders have become victims, trapped between governments and families, neither of which has figured out how to protect or provide for them.