Learn about the signs and types of elder abuse, as well has how to report it
According to the Department of Justice, 1 in every 10 adults over the age of 65 will experience elder abuse this year. The abuse can occur in many forms including neglect, financial, physical, emotional/psychological, sexual or social abuse.
Although it is often assumed that elder abuse only occurs at a certain age, it’s important to understand that abuse can happen to anyone at any time. As a result, many cases of elder abuse go unreported and it is likely that the amount of elder abuse cases exceeds that 10% of cases that are reported.
To prevent this, it is crucial to watch for the warning signs of elder abuse.
What is elder abuse?
According to the U.S. Public Health and Welfare Code, “abuse” is the knowing infliction of physical or psychological harm, or the knowing deprivation of goods or services that are necessary to meet essential needs or to avoid physical or psychological harm.
Elder abuse can be physical, psychological, financial, or sexual, including:
- Intentional infliction of physical harm
- Injury caused by negligent acts or omissions
- Unreasonable confinement
- Sexual abuse or sexual assault
- Intentional infliction of psychological harm through isolation, which could include removal of pets, social supports or other support systems.
Neglect is a nuanced and critical element of abuse. Neglect for elders can be deprivation of food, water, medication, medical services, shelter, supervision, cooling, heating, socialization or other services/basic needs necessary to maintain a vulnerable adult’s physical and mental health.
Older adults are also at risk of exploitation, which can consist of unauthorized use of monetary funds or authorized use of funds under fraudulent pretenses.
What are the signs of elder abuse?
Signs of abuse can vary, and not all abuse — even physical — leaves marks. It’s critical to watch for these signs:
- Neglect: Failure to provide care, abandonment, bed sores, dehydration, or malnutrition, withholding medication, leaving the older adult in soiled or dirty clothing, not bathing.
- Financial: Exploitation, stealing funds, use funds without consent, improperly obtained POA, scams.
- Physical: Unexplained bruises and wounds, bite marks, skeletal and/or abdominal injuries, broken bones, pushing, hitting, kicking, pinching, burning of cigarettes into a person’s arms.
- Emotional/psychological: Degrading, yelling or screaming at a person, psychological distress.
- Sexual: Non-consensual sexual act(s) or exposing the older adult to sexual act.
- Social: Withdrawal from friends or usual activities, fear of a particular place or being with a specific person. Intentional isolation from family, friends or loved ones.
How to prevent elder abuse
The best way to prevent abuse is by staying engaged with your elders, whether they are family, friends, or neighbors. Some older persons may not be as involved in the community as they should be, which puts them at a higher risk of abuse or neglect.
Even if they have a designated caretaker or MPOA/POA, checking in regularly can be an effective deterrent to abuse. Staying engaged with primary care providers and care teams can also strengthen elder support and safety. And, engaging with people who have assumed a caretaking role and encouraging of both paid and unpaid assistance and self-care is vital.
How to report elder abuse
If you suspect abuse, neglect or isolation towards an individual, report it. Anyone can make a report to the Adult Protective Services or local authorities, and there are protections in place for vulnerable adults, including those with disabilities.
The following resources are available in each state. For life threatening emergencies, allegations of sexual abuse or imminent harm, please call 911.
- Reports to Adult Protective Services (APS) can be made online here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Reports can be made by phone to (877) 767-2385, Monday – Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays, Sundays, and state holidays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Reports can be made with Aging and Disability Services-Adult Protective Services at (702) 486-6930, Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- For reporting after business hours, during weekends, or on holidays; call Crisis Support Services at 1-800-273-8255 or 988. Staff are trained to take reports and forward them to ADSD the following business day.
- Call 1-855-503-SAFE (7233) to report elder abuse or neglect
- Find more information on reporting elder abuse in Oregon here
- Report suspected elder abuse, neglect or exploitation call the Florida Abuse Hotline any time at 1-800-96 ABUSE (22873) or report online
- Find more information on reporting elder abuse in Florida here
Caregiver Support Resources
When it is safe to do so, caregiver support can help families care for relatives with chronic illness or disability in their own homes.
However, caregivers are often so committed to caring for other older adults’ needs that they minimize or neglect their own needs. If caregivers don’t take care of themselves, they cannot help another older adult.
It’s important to offer caregivers support. Support can come in the form of financial assistance, respite care, and education on the diseases that affect older people. It can also give caregivers practical advice on how to deal with difficult situations while still maintaining the dignity of the elderly person they are caring for. Caregiver support and assistance can include:
- Counseling and support groups
- Caregiver training
- Respite care (a temporary break from caregiving)
- Personal care
- Homemaker services
- Senior companions (volunteers who provide companionship)
- National Family Caregiver Support Program: (866) 836-6678
- Supporting Family Caregivers in Your State
- AARP’s toll-free family caregiving line available in:
- English at 1-877-333-5885
- Spanish at 1-888-971-2013
- Helping Hands of Vegas Valley Respite Program: (702) 507-1848
- Caregiver Programs: (702) 364-2273 or (702) 648-3425
- Respite Care: (702) 333-1599
- Care Transitions and Care Consultation: (702) 364-2273
- Nevada Lifespan Respite Care Coalition: (775) 401-4163
- Nevada Care Connection: (702) 732-0304 or (702) 364-2273
- Pima Council on Aging (PCOA) Caregiver Support Groups: (520) 790-7262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive instructions for joining.
- Western AZ Council of Governments (WACOG): To register for Virtual Caregiver Conference contact Cat Trobaugh at (928) 377-4694 or email email@example.com
- Arizona Caregiver Resource Line: (888)737-7494
- Family Caregiver Support program: 1-855-673-2372
- The Oregon Hospice & Palliative Care Association