Elder Abuse

Need to Know
Issue No. 3: Words from the Wise
Words - Terri Fleming


Elder abuse refers to either an action or a lack of action within a trusted relationship, that results in harm or distress to the older person involved. Elder abuse can manifest in many different ways. Physical abuse includes not just violence or non-consensual sexual contact, but also inappropriate use of medications and any kind of punishment. Psychological abuse refers to the words or actions that may cause stress or anxiety in the older person, such as yelling at the person and blaming them for their own condition. Financial abuse involves inappropriate use or embezzlement of funds. Neglect refers to failing to care for the older adult, such as ignoring their physical needs and demands, and failing to make sure they are clean, fed, and safe. Financial exploitation and psychological abuse are the most common types of elder abuse.

Approximately 1 in 6 older adults experienced some form of abuse in community settings during the past year. Most statistics surrounding elder abuse are expected to be underestimations, as only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse is reported. Rates of elder abuse are high in institutions, such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The abuse is usually perpetrated by someone they know and trust, whether that be a caregiver at a facility, or the person’s own family or friend. As our population ages, it is estimated that abuse may increase in the older adult population as it grows without adequate resources to care for aging people.

Resources for reporting elder abuse include local Adult Protective Services, Long Term Care Ombudsman for suspected abuse within care facilities, and general Eldercare Locators that can provide more information on local agencies.