Elder Abuse

Each year as many as one in ten older persons are abused, neglected, and/or exploited. Many victims are people who are frail, vulnerable and depend on others to meet their basic needs. Abusers of older adults may be family members, staff at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and even strangers.  The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 90% of elder abuse cases involve family members.

Elder abuse can occur anywhere. It affects seniors across all income levels, cultures, and races. Women and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized. Dementia is a significant risk factor, as is isolation.
In general, elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or other trusted individual that lead to harm of a vulnerable elder. This can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment.

Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, humiliation or intimidation.
Neglect is a failure by those responsible to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care or basic protection.
Financial exploitation means the misuse, concealment or withholding of an older adult’s assets for someone else’s benefit.
Abandonment is desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Self-neglect is the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks, threatening his/her own health or safety.

Some signs that there could be a problem:
• Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, or burns.
• Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression.
• Strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between a caregiver/family member and older adult.
• Sudden changes in financial situations.
• Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss.
• Belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals in charge of the older person’s care.

Be alert! The suffering is often done in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, start to question what is going on.

You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring, only to alert others of your concerns. Contact Adult Protective Services through your local Aging & Disability Resource Center.

For more information, visit websites of the National Center on Elder Abuse, National Council on Aging, and Administration on Aging.



Next up: Protection from Elder Abuse