Abuse can happen to anyone—no matter the person's age, sex, race, religion, or ethnic or cultural background. Each year, more than a thousand adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited. This is called elder abuse. Abuse can happen in many places, including the older person's home, a family member's house, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.
Elder abuse will not stop on its own. Someone else needs to step in and help. Many older people are too ashamed to report mistreatment. Or, they're afraid if they make a report it will get back to the abuser and make the situation worse.
Types of Abuse
- Physical abuse happens when someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing, or slapping.
- Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older person. Keeping that person from seeing close 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 exploitation happens when money or belongings are stolen. It can include forging checks, taking someone else's retirement and Social Security benefits, or using another person's credit cards and bank accounts.
Signs of Older Adult Abuse
Although these signs do not always mean an older adult is being abused, it is important to be aware that elder abuse can occur at any time to anyone over 60 years of age.
- Injuries - bruises, broken bones, bedsores and other physical trauma
- Weight loss - may be due to stress or lack of food
- Dementia - may be blamed on "old age" when the real cause is malnutrition or drug interactions or side effects
- Isolation - seldom if ever leaves his/her residence or receives visitors
- Unusual behavior related to money - withdrawing large sums from a bank account without apparent reason
- Unwarranted legal proceedings - signing over his or her home to a relative