What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is usually defined as the physical or psychological mistreatment of a senior, and can include taking financial advantage or neglecting the care of a senior.
Is elder abuse widespread?
Yes. At the end of this page you will find Internet links to elder abuse research in the U.S., Canada and Europe. These studies estimate elder abuse affects as little as one percent and as much as ten percent of the senior populations. In the U.S., percentage estimates of abused seniors range between four and ten percent. Whatever the true figures, people concerned with elder abuse agree the problem exists and needs to be stopped.
Part of the reason why no reliable statistics exist on elder abuse is because it is under reported. Some elderly may be embarrassed to reveal abuse from their relatives, or may fear being placed in an institution if they live at home. They might worry about reprisal from the abuser.
How do I determine if an elder is being abused?
The following abuse indicators are taken from elder abuse information provided over the Internet by The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Health and Welfare Canada:
Physical Abuse Indicators
- frequent unexplained injuries (bruises, broken limbs, welts, cuts, and grip marks), accompanied by a habit of seeking medical assistance from a variety of locations
- reluctance to seek medical treatment for injuries or denial of their existence
- disorientation or grogginess (may indicate the misuse of medication)
- fear and edginess in the presence of a caregiver or family member
Psychosocial Abuse Indicators
- exclusion of an elderly person from discussions on major decisions
- absence of emotional warmth toward the elder
- social isolation – whether physically or emotionally imposed
- verbal assault (shouting, infantilization, degrading remarks)
Material Abuse Indicators
- cashing of pension checks without proper authorization from the elder
- bills and expenses continuously unpaid
- standard of living not appropriate for an elder’s income level
- sudden sale of property belonging to an elderly person
- sudden revision of the elder’s will, naming a new beneficiary
- disproportionately high contribution by the elder to household expenses
- granting of power of attorney under suspicious conditions
Indicators of Neglect
- malnutrition in an elderly person who cannot get food without help
- decline in personal hygiene
- disregard of elder in family affairs
- lack of needed medication or aids
- lack of material needs of life
What can I do about elder abuse?
You can go to the police or your local Area Agency on Aging for help. You can also call the toll-free National Eldercare Locator Hotline, which will give you information on who to turn to in your area. The number is 1-800-992-1660.