Domestic violence is an issue that plagues many families. No matter the composition or age when a breakdown of the relationship occurs through domestic violence, very few family members survive intact. Last week, an 82-year-old man in Manchester, New Jersey killed his wife by repeatedly hitting her with a hammer. The man then shot himself as he waited for police to respond to his phone call reporting his wife’s death. Unfortunately, murder-suicide is a common outcome in domestic violence situations. In this case, the unusual factor is the age of the couple.
New Jersey Has a High Rate of Elderly Murder-Suicides
According to the Violence Policy Center in almost all murder-suicide cases, the husband kills the wife before killing himself, and nearly four out of five such incidents occur in the home.
Donna Cohen, a psychologist and professor at the University of Southern Florida, studies elderly murder-suicide cases. She estimates that between 750 and 800 elderly murder-suicide cases occur annually based on reports in the media. The FBI does not track murder-suicides. New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania are among the states with the highest rate of elderly murder-suicides.
Caregiver Stress Leading Cause of Elderly Domestic Violence
According to the Mayo Clinic, one in three adults provides care to other adults as a caregiver. These caregivers are often emotionally and physically stressed because of the toll caregiving takes, especially if one of the adults has Alzheimer’s or suffers from dementia. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and exhaustion are common.
If you or some you love is showing signs of caregiver stress, seek medical assistance right away. These signs may include:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired often
- Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
- Gaining or losing weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Cohen said, that about 70% of elderly murder-suicide cases involve caregiver stress; the other 30 percent arise from domestic violence.
Resources in New Jersey for Families in Domestic Violence Situations
In case of an emergency, dialing 9-1-1 and seeking emergency assistance from the police, is the best place to start. Any physical injuries should be treated at the hospital. New Jersey has resources to help families, they include the following:
Guidelines on Police Response Procedures in Domestic Violence Cases – http://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/agguide/dvpolrsp.htm
New Jersey State Police – http://www.njsp.org/division/operations/domestic-violence-info.shtml
Are You a Victim of Domestic Violence? A Hackensack, New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Attorney can Help
In New Jersey, victims of domestic violence can file a civil complaint under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 along with a criminal complaint. A restraining order can be issued by the court to prevent the abuser from returning to the home, performing acts of domestic violence, possessing a firearm or weapon, or communicating with the victim in any way. The abuser can also be required to pay temporary child support if there are minor children in the family.
The Giro Law Firm, a Hackensack, New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Firm, provides legal services to families in a variety of matters including family offenses, contested and uncontested divorces, pre and post nuptial agreements, paternity testing, parental rights, adoption, spousal support, child custody and child support, and civil union agreements. To schedule a consultation, contact us here.