Elder Abuse

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the broad definition of elder abuse is “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an elder person” and includes “physical, sexual and emotional abuse, financial exploitation, neglect and self-neglect, and abandonment.” Abusers may be spouses and former spouses, partners, adult children, extended family, and, in some cases, non-family caregivers.

 Elder abuse is also referred to as “domestic violence later in life,” and is similar to all intimate partner violence, in which one person uses hurtful, repeated and intentional behavior to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. In this case, elder victims and abusers usually fall into three basic categories:

  • A new relationship, in which the victim discovers the new partner to be abusive
  • “Late–onset domestic violence”, in which a long, ordinary marriage unexpectedly turns abusive - although there may have been emotional abuse or a strained relationship that worsened when a partner aged
  • “Domestic violence grown old”, in which violence and abuse begins early in the marriage and continues for decades

 Various behaviors in elder abuse include:

  • Physical Abuse – Inflicting or threatening to inflict physical pain or injury
  • Emotional Abuse – Inflicting mental or emotional anguish or distress on an elder person through verbal or non-verbal acts
  • Sexual Abuse – Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind
  • Financial or Material Exploitation – The illegal taking, misuse or concealment of funds, property or assets of a vulnerable elder person
  • Neglect – Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder person
  • Abandonment – The desertion of a vulnerable elder person by anyone who has assumed responsibility for the care and custody of that person

 Some warning signs of elder abuse include:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities and unusual depression
  • Sudden changes in financial situations
  • Unusual weight loss, poor hygiene, bedsores, unattended medical needs
  • Strained or tense relationships or frequent arguments between caregiver and elderly person