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Identifying and Understanding Elder Abuse

| McCormick & Murphy's Blog


Sadly, elder abuse is more common than many of us know.  The National Council on Aging estimates that one out of every ten seniors in America over the age of 60 has been victim to elder abuse.  Their research shows that as many as 5 million seniors may be abused every year, but that only 1 in 14 cases actually report it. 

Elder Abuse” refers to any intentional malicious or neglecting act by a caregiver or someone else that causes serious harm or risk to a senior.  Below we will go into more detail on the different and most frequent forms of abuse.  We’ll also cover what to do – in addition to contacting a local elder law attorney – if you suspect someone you know is a victim of elder abuse.

Forms of Elder Abuse

  • Physical Abuse- physical pain or injury to a senior; examples include slapping, hitting, most actions that cause bruising, and restraining them with physical force or force with the aid of chemical substances.
  • Sexual Abuse- sexual contact that is non-consensual, period. It is important to remember consent is questionable in cases where someone involved no longer has full cognitive abilities
  • Neglect- caregiver does not provide sufficient shelter, medical attention, or food
  • Exploitation- the misuse or concealment of funds, property, or assets
  • Emotional Abuse- causing mental distress, anguish, or harm through verbal or nonverbal actions. This can come from humiliation, intimidation, and other demeaning interactions
  • Abandonment- caregiver leaves or deserts the senior
  • Self-neglect- caregiver fails to care for themselves, thus inhibiting the safety of their dependent
  • Acts that belittle a senior
  • Verbally abusive arguments between the senior and caregiver

Signs of Elder Abuse

  • Unexplained bruises, broken bones, abrasions, cuts, or burns
  • Sudden changes in daily activities
  • Sensitivity to breast or genital area
  • Unexplained financial changes
  • Poor hygiene, bedsores, and weight loss can be signs of neglect

Like most cases with abuse, the victim is often silent. Just because there is no cry for help does not mean the problems do not exist. They may even persist and get worse, without intervention. Those that are worried should be reassured that their job is not to determine whether actual abuse is occurring or to directly intervene in any of these situations. 

There are agencies that specialize in elder abuse, and even just being concerned and contacting them can get the ball rolling.

Resources if You Suspect Elder Abuse

  • Call 911 – If the problem is dire or someone is in danger, the police are the most prepared to help.
  • Contact Adult Protective Services (APS)
  • Call 1-800-677-116 – This is the number for Eldercare Locator. They have helpful resources pertaining to elder abuse.
  • Contact Long-Term Care Ombudsman – They investigate and resolve complaints about the care provided in nursing homes, home-care providers, and other care facilities.

Abuse, in all its ugly forms, is constantly ignored.  It is moved to the back burner, and people pretend nothing is wrong, because it is easier that way.  But, for many seniors, nearly 5 million Americans, abuse constitutes a daily struggle.  It is important to remember most caregivers really are amazing people, and only a very small percentage of them engage in elder abuse.

But it is vitally important to know that elder abuse exists and may be affecting someone you know.  By being concerned and knowing what to look for, you are already helping make a difference.

This is a guest post from the team at, the complete resource for boomers and seniors.

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