Elder Abuse

July 26, 2010
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Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. Elder abuse can happen within a family or community as well as in settings such as hospitals or nursing homes. Elder abuse is a serious problem in this country; all 50 states have laws against elder abuse. The laws differ, but all states have systems for reporting suspected abuse.

Elder abuse is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
  • Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
  • Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or resources.
  • Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her caregiving responsibilities.
  • Self-neglect is failure to provide for one’s own essential needs.

What are the warning signs of elder abuse?

While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs of abuse.
  • Indications of fear of caregivers such as hesitation to speak openly in front of caregiver, anxious or withdrawn.
  • Home in disarray, lacking basic necessities caused by caregiver neglect of self-neglect.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • A new “best friend” and isolation from other friends and family.

Who Do I Call If I Suspect Abuse?

If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help.

If the danger is not imminent, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell someone. To report elder abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency in the state where the elder resides. For New York State residents call 1-800-342-3009.

If you suspect nursing home abuse, call the New York State Department of Quality and Surveillance of Nursing Homes. The abuse is available 24 hours a day at 1-888-201-4563

If you suspect abuse in an Assisted Living or Adult Care Facilities call 1-866-893-6772. This hotline is available 24 hours a day.

Most importantly, be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

To learn more about elder abuse you can visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website at www.ncea.aoa.gov .

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