What is Elder Abuse?
Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Many victims are people who are older, frail, and vulnerable and cannot help or defend themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men, and may be family members, friends, or professional care providers.
In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.
Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws.
Laws and definitions of elder abuse terms vary considerably from one state to another, but broadly defined, abuse may be:
- Physical Abuse – inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means
- Sexual Abuse – non-consensual sexual contact of any kind
- Neglect – the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder
- Exploitation – the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit
- Emotional Abuse – inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening
- Abandonment – desertion of a vulnerable elder person by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person
- Self-neglect – characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some signs that there could be an abuse problem are as follows:
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse
- Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs
- Be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on
If someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help.
Additional Resources for Elder Abuse
Administration on Aging – The mission of the Administration on Aging is to develop a comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective system of home and community-based services that helps elderly individuals maintain their health and independence in their homes and communities.
HelpGuide.org – Provides extensive information on elder abuse and neglect. Learn how to recognize the warning signs of elder abuse.
National Center on Elder Abuse – The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) serves as a national resource center dedicated to the prevention of elder mistreatment. First established by the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) in 1988 as a national elder abuse resource center, the NCEA was granted a permanent home at AoA in the 1992 amendments made to Title II of the Older Americans Act. To carry out its mission, the NCEA disseminates elder abuse information to professionals and the public, and provides technical assistance and training to states and to community-based organizations. Includes State Resources: Help lines, Hotlines, and Information .
National Committee to Prevent Elder Abuse – The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) is an association of researchers, practitioners, educators, and advocates dedicated to protecting the safety, security, and dignity of America’s most vulnerable citizens. It was established in 1988 to achieve a clearer understanding of abuse and provide direction and leadership to prevent it. The Committee is one of three partners that make up the National Center on Elder Abuse, designed to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on information and materials on abuse and neglect.
National Institute of Justice – Elder Abuse Information – Information on elder abuse and elder neglect. Provides helpful resources and publications on elder abuse and suggestions for getting help.
Elder Care Abuse and Nursing Home Abuse Investigations
For help investigating nursing home abuse, neglect, or elder abuse, hire a local private investigator to dig up the facts. To find a private investigator that specializes in these types of investigations, visit our Private Investigator Directory.