What are the Most Common Types of Abuse the Elderly Might Face?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 10 people ages 60 and older experience some form of elder abuse. In reality, this number is expected to be even higher due to the fact that many victims are unable to report the violence out of fear or inability.
Elder abuse is defined by the CDC as an “intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult”.
Types of Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse recognizes seven kinds of elderly abuse.
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Financial Abuse
Physical abuse is any kind of intentionally applied physical force resulting in bodily harm, physical pain, distress, impairment, illness, or death. Types of physical abuse include hitting, beating, shoving, burning, kicking, slapping, choking, the use of physical restraints without warrant, and more.
Signs of physical abuse could include but are not limited to:
- Unusual bruising
- Broken bones
- Unexplained cuts or lacerations
- Dramatic change in behavior
- “Sudden” internal bleeding and/or injuries
- Sprains and fractures
Sexual abuse relates to unwanted or forced, non-consensual sexual contact with an elder. Sexual contact may include unwanted touching, intercourse, non-consensual photographs, pressured nudity, or any other unwanted sexual activity. If the elder is deemed unable to give informed approval, all sexual contact is considered sexual abuse.
Signs of sexual abuse to an elder could include but are not limited to:
- Bruises on various parts of the body
- Genital bleeding
- Emergence of STD’s
- Stained undergarments
- Dramatic change in behavior
Emotional abuse includes both verbal and nonverbal behavior resulting in the infliction of fear, pain, distress, or anguish on the elder. Verbal assault, humiliation, threats, intimidation, and isolation are all examples of emotionally abusive behaviors. Oftentimes during emotional abuse, the elder is treated like a child and experiences feelings of seclusion, social isolation, and severe limitations.
Signs of emotional abuse against an elder often include:
- Sudden unresponsiveness or lack of communication
- Dramatic or unusual change in behavior
- Sudden depression or unwillingness to engage in activity
Neglect is the failure or refusal to provide an elder with the basic care needed to live a comfortable and healthy life. Neglect falls on caregivers or the party responsible for protecting the person from harm. The refusal or failure to provide basic life necessities such as water, food, clothing, and personal safety is classified as neglect. Other examples include failure to provide essential medical care, proper nutrition, adequate hygiene, shelter, access to healthcare services, and more.
Symptoms of elder neglect may include:
- Noticeable malnutrition or dehydration
- Noticeable unsanitary living conditions
- Worsening or untreated bed sores
- Worsening on untreated health issues
Abandonment is the intentional desertion of a senior by a responsible party or caretaker. Abandonment can be especially dangerous to an elder affected by Alzheimer’s, dementia, or another serious mental condition. Oftentimes, abandonment can lead to depression, illness, and even death.
Signs of elder abandonment could include:
- Elder being left in a public place (EX: Shopping mall, Public park, Etc.)
- Elder being dropped off and/or left at a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital
One of the most common types of abuse, financial abuse deals with the “illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual” (CDC).
There are a variety of examples of financial abuse including but not limited to taking money without the elderly person knowing and/or consenting, illegally signing the elder’s checks, convincing the elder to sign documents without understanding them, illegal or improper use of power of attorney (POA), and taking possessions of the elder without consent.
Signs of financial abuse or exploitation may include:
- Dramatic changes in the elder’s bank account without explanation
- The sudden disappearance of the elder’s possessions or funds
- The use of the elder’s ATM card without consent
- The change of names or details to legal documents without the elder knowing
- The appearance of the caregiver or responsible parties name on the elder’s bank card
- The transferring of assets or possessions to a non-family member
According to the Elder Justice Act, enacted in 2010, elder self-neglect is defined as the “inability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care.”
According to experts in the field, “Self-neglect is one of the most challenging issues in elder protection, and it dominates the work of Adult Protective Services (APS) units across the country”. Over two-thirds of the cases reported by APS are self-neglect cases, taking on more than 142,000 of these specific cases is one year alone.
The most common situation where elders are seen engaging in self-neglect is when the person becomes either mentally or physically unable to care for themselves and are left with no caregivers, responsible parties, or family members to assist them.
Examples include failure to properly nourish or hydrate themselves, failure to keep up with their property or possessions, failure to take necessary medications, putting themselves in unsafe situations, etc.
Signs and symptoms of self-neglect may include:
- Homelessness or lack of proper shelter
- Living in unsafe conditions relating to wiring, plumbing, or cleanliness
- Failure to take necessary medications
- Failure to use necessary health-related precautions