Elder Abuse


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Unfortunately, many elderly adults today are abused in their homes, relative’s homes, and in facilities responsible for their care. Elder abuse can occur in many different forms: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or abandonment by caregivers or financial exploitation. Regardless of the type of abuse, elder abuse in any form is a crime punishable by law. An important way to prevent elder abuse is to watch out for the warning signs and report it if abuse is suspected.

What is Elder Abuse?

Some elders are physically frail and unable to fight back when attacked or abused. Sadly, some people take advantage of these situations. Many times, elders are abused by people who are responsible for their care. Typically, individuals responsible for an elder’s care are supposedly trusted individuals. Sometimes, this is not the case. Elder abuse can occur to any elderly individual and it is essential to understand the warning signs in order for the abuse to be reported.

Types of Elder Abuse

Physical Abuse
Physical abuse towards an elder is defined are purposeful use of force that results in physical pain or injury. In addition, physical abuse includes the usage of unneeded drugs or using unnecessary means of confinement or restraint.

Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse of an elder can occur in both verbal and nonverbal ways. In this type of abuse, an elder is caused emotional distress through the way they are spoken to or treated.

An elder can be abused verbally through:

  • Intimidation by threats
  • Humiliation
  • Ridicule
  • Blaming

An elder can be abused nonverbally through:

  • Ignoring the elder
  • Isolating the elder from activities
  • Terrorizing the elder

Sexual Abuse

Elder sexual abuse can occur in two different ways. One way an elder can be sexually abused is through physical sexual acts without consent. Another is exposing pornographic material to an elder, forcing an elder to watch sexual acts or forcing an elder to undress. All of these cases occur without consent from the elder.

Neglect or Abandonment by Caregivers
Neglect or abandonment of an elder by a caregiver constitutes a failure of required caregiving by an individual in charge of doing so. Although this type of abuse can be unintentional, it does not diminish the severity of the abuse and the harm it causes an elder.

Financial Exploitation
Financial exploitation occurs when an elder’s funds or property are used without authorization. This abuse can be implemented from a caregiver or a stranger.

Abuse from a caregiver may occur when:

  • There is a misuse of an elder’s checks, credit  cards, or accounts
  • Cash, checks, or household goods are stolen.
  • An elder’s signature is forged.

Abuse from a stranger may occur when:

  • Investment Fraud
  • Healthcare Fraud
  • Medicare Fraud
  • Lottery Scams

For more information on frauds visit the Bucks County  Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force for monthly fraud alerts affecting elders.

Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse

General Signs of Abuse

  • Frequent arguments or tension between a caregiver and an elder
  • Changes in the personality or behavior of an elder

Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Unexplained injuries on an elder’s person.
  • Caregiver’s denial to access the elder by themselves.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Witnessing a caregiver abusing an elderly individual
  • An elder who exhibits sudden symptoms similar to dementia such as: rocking, mumbling to themselves and sucking.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Unexplained disease of the genital  area
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Bruises surrounding the breasts or genitals

Signs of Neglect by Caregivers

  • Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Elder is dirty and unbathed
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • Inappropriate clothing for particular weather conditions

Signs of Financial Exploitation

  • Unexplained withdrawals from an elder’s account
  • Items of the elder’s possession are missing
  • Financial activity that the elder could not have completed
  • Unexplained bills or costs

Elder abuse can significantly impact the life of an elderly individual. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent abuse from occurring.

Remember to listen to elders and their caregivers, intervene if you suspect elder abuse, and educate others on how to recognize and report elder abuse.

By following these steps, elder abuse can be prevented and stopped.

Learn how to report elder abuse by visiting the National Center on Elder Abuse  or call 1-800-490-8505 in Pennsylvania.


  • “Elder Abuse and Neglect.” Help  Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.  <http://www.helpguide.org/mental/elder_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm>.