Elder abuse is when another person takes advantage of or harms an elderly person. Elder abuse can take many different forms, including the following:
As people become older, they may develop health problems that lead to a decrease in physical strength, vision, and thinking abilities. These changes can make older adults vulnerable. They may be dependent on others for care or unable to tell when someone is taking advantage of them.
Anyone can commit elder abuse. It is estimated that 2 out of every 3 abusers are family members, such as adult children or spouses, who care for the older adult. Caregivers have an increased risk of committing elder abuse when:
Abusers also may include health care workers, neighbors or friends, and organizations or scam artists looking to financially exploit older adults.
An older adult who is neglected or is being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused may have one or more of the following physical and behavioral warning signs:
The warning signs of financial exploitation include one or more of the following:
A caregiver who is abusing an older adult may:
If you are an older adult who is being abused or is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or your local police department for help.
If you have seen or suspect elder abuse, report it. Every state has a toll-free elder abuse hotline that you can call to report elder abuse at home or in care facilities. Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website to find the telephone number for your state.
To report elder abuse, you do not have to prove that the abuse actually is occurring. In most cases, an agency called Adult Protective Services will respond to your call. These professionals will investigate the situation and take action if it is needed.
If you are a caregiver, take care of your health and learn how to manage your stress. This will help you provide the best possible care for your loved one. If you become overwhelmed or think you might start abusing an older adult, get help. Talk to your family doctor about your feelings and find someone else to care for your relative until you are feeling better.
If your loved one is receiving care at home or in a long-term care facility, stay involved in his or her care. If you are unhappy with the care he or she is receiving, speak to management or report suspected abuse to the state.
To help prevent financial exploitation, make sure your loved one’s financial and legal documents are in order. Although some of the information applies only to older adults who have dementia, read “Planning for the Future after a Diagnosis of Dementia” for a list of financial and legal issues to discuss with your family members. Also, regularly review your loved one’s bank and credit card statements and try to keep track of household valuables.
Administration on Aging. What is Elder Abuse? by Administration on Aging ( April 10, 2012, http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/Elder_Rights/EA_Prevention/whatIsEA.aspx)
National Center on Elder Abuse. Why Should I Care About Elder Abuse? (PDF). by National Center on Elder Abuse ( April 10, 2012, http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Ncearoot/Main_Site/pdf/publication/NCEA_WhatIsAbuse-2010.pdf)
National Center on Elder Abuse. Who Are the Abusers? by National Center on Elder Abuse ( April 10, 2012, http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/ncearoot/Main_Site/FAQ/Basics/Abusers.aspx)
Helpguide.org. Elder Abuse and Neglect by Helpguide.org ( April 10, 2012, http://helpguide.org/mental/elder_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm)
National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. What is Elder Abuse? by National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse ( April 10, 2012, http://www.preventelderabuse.org/elderabuse/)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff