Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited. This can occur in many places, including the older person's home, a family member's home, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.
The most likely targets are women, seniors who have no family or friends nearby, those with disabilities, memory problems, or dementia. Elder Abuse often affects seniors who depend on others for help with activities of everyday life—including bathing, dressing, and taking medicine. These people appear to be easy victims.
Types of Abuse
- Physical abuse occurs when someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing, or slapping.
- Emotional abuse, also referred to as psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older person. Preventing that person from seeing friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.
- Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older person's needs.
- Abandonment is leaving a senior alone without planning for his or her care.
- Sexual abuse involves a caregiver forcing an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.
- Financial abuse happens when money or belongings are stolen. Financial abuse is becoming a widespread and hard-to-detect issue. Even someone you've never met can steal your financial information using the telephone or email. Be careful about sharing any financial information over the phone or online, since you don't know who will use it.
- Examples include: forging checks, taking someone else's retirement and Social Security benefits, using another person's credit cards and bank accounts, changing names on a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or title to a house without permission from the older person.
- Healthcare fraud can be committed by doctors, hospital staff, and other healthcare workers. Older adults and caregivers should keep an eye out for this type of fraud.
- Examples include: overcharging, billing twice for the same service, falsifying Medicaid or Medicare claims, or charging for care that wasn't provided.
Recognizing the Signs of Elder Abuse
Approximately 1 in 10 adults over age 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited.
Signs of Elder Abuse include the following:
- Trouble sleeping
- Depression or confusion
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- Displays signs of trauma
- Acts agitated or violent
- Becomes withdrawn
- Stops taking part in activities that he/she normally enjoys
- Has unexplained bruises, burns, or scars
- Looks disheveled (unwashed hair, dirty clothes)
- Develops bed sores or other preventable conditions
If you recognize signs of abuse, try talking with the older person to find out what's going on and most importantly, seek help.
Where to Report Elder Abuse
Adult Protective Services (APS):
Adult Protective Services assist vulnerable and elder adults to stop and prevent abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Anyone can make a report about suspected abuse to the Hotline. If someone you know is 18 years of age or older, living in the community and is the subject of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation, contact your county APS office
An APS investigation is a thorough assessment of a potential at-risk adult. Within 72 hours of a referral’s receipt, a face-to-face meeting with the adult by a trained APS social worker is required. During this meeting the potential client is interviewed in private. Every effort is made to determine the competence of the adult. Other individuals or agencies that have knowledge of the situation may also be interviewed. When the investigation is complete a report is submitted to the APS Supervisor who then consults with the social worker and determines if the adult is at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation. All information generated by the investigation is confidential.
New Jersey APS Fact Sheet
National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) Fact Sheet
What Is the Long-Term Effect of Abuse?
Most physical wounds heal in time. But, any type of mistreatment can leave the abused person feeling fearful and depressed. Sometimes, the victim thinks the abuse is his or her fault. Protective services agencies can suggest support groups and counseling that can help the abused person heal the emotional wounds.
For More Information About Elder Abuse and Where to Get Help
National Center on Elder Abuse
National Adult Protective Services Association
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 (toll-free, 24/7)
U.S. Department of Justice