Elder Abuse – Stopping It Begins with Awareness

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What is Elder Abuse?

In observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2012, we will begin our awareness series with defining the different types of elder abuse.  

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.  The different types of abuse are as follows:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Exploitation
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment


Physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment and may include:

  • Acts of violence such as striking with or without an object,  hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning.
  • Inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints,
  • Force feeding
  • Prolonged deprivation of food or water
  • Physical punishment of any kind


Emotional or Psychological abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts and may include:

  • Verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment
  • Subjecting an individual to fear, isolation, or serious emotional distress
  • Treating an older person like an infant
  • Isolating an elderly person from his/her family, friends, or regular activities
  • Giving an older person the “silent treatment;” and enforced social isolation


Sexual abuse is defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person and includes: 

  • Sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent
  • Unwanted touching
  • All types of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, and sexually explicit photographing. 

Financial or Material Exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. Examples include:

  • Cashing an elderly person’s checks without authorization or permission
  • Forging an older person’s signature
  • Misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions
  • Coercing or deceiving an older person into signing any document (e.g., contracts or will)
  • Improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney.

Neglect is defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elder. Neglect may also include failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder (e.g., pay for necessary home care services) or the failure on the part of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care.) Examples of neglect include:

  • Failure to assist in personal hygiene
  • Failure to provide clothing and shelter
  • Failure to provide medical care
  • Failure to protect from health and safety hazards
  • Failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration

Abandonment is defined as the desertion of an elderly person by an individual who has assumed responsibility for providing care for an elder, or by a person with physical custody of an elder.

For more information on elder abuse you can visit the following resources:

National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA) http://www.ncea.aoa.gov

California Department of Justice – A Citizen’s Guide To Preventing & Reporting Elder Abuse

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