The Facts About Elder Abuse


Elder abuse is a hidden crime, one not often acknowledged in our society or even reported. But it is a serious problem. The National Council on Aging estimates that one in every 10 Americans aged 60 or beyond has experienced some form of elder abuse or neglect.  Some estimates say the number of victims could be as high as 5 million older Americans per year, and it’s estimated that only one in every 14 cases is reported to authorities.

Fact Sheet

The National Council on Aging says Elder Abuse comes in a variety of forms:

Physical Abuse:  Inflicting physical pain or injury.

Sexual Abuse: Touching, fondling, or any sexual activity with an older adult, when that senior is not able to understand, does not give consent or is threatened or physically forced.

Emotional Abuse: The individual is the subject of verbal attacks or is threatened with abuse, intimidation or harassment.

Confinement: The older adult is restrained or isolated without a medical reason.

Passive Neglect: The caregiver fails to provide the older adult with the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter or medical care.

Willful Deprivation: The caregiver deliberately denies the older adult medications, medical care, shelter, food or physical assistance.  The caregiver exposes the older adult to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm without consent.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says elder abuse can take several other forms:

Exploitation: Taking, misuse or hiding of money, property or other assets from an elderly person for another person’s benefit.

Abandonment: The caregiver or person in custody deserts the elderly person.

Self-Neglect: The vulnerable elder fails to perform essential tasks involved in taking care of him or herself and the neglect threatens the person’s health or safety.

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse:

Any one of these does not necessarily indicate elder abuse, but several could mean there’s a problem:

  • Bruises, abrasions, broken bones or burns
  • Unusual depression or unexplained withdrawal from usual activities
  • Bedsores, poor hygiene, abnormal weight loss
  • Spouses engage in belittling, threats or other controlling behavior
  • Frequent arguments between the elderly person and a caregiver
  • Sudden changes in financial situations which could mean exploitation

Signs of Possible Self-Neglect:

  • Hoarding of objects
  • Failure to eat properly or person showing signs of dehydration
  • Not wearing clothing that is suitable for the weather
  • Inability to keep house properly
  • Confusion