The Women's Health Resource Center
Elder abuse is most often defined as an action by a person in a position of trust, which causes harm to an elder person. Although elders who have mental or physical disabilities are at the greatest risk, elder abuse can happen to anyone and comes in many forms; physical abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, self-neglect, psychological/emotional abuse and sexual abuse. It is estimated, in the United States, that 1.5 million seniors are abused or mistreated every year.
There are two categories of elder abuse:
Domestic Elder Abuse: Maltreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder person such as a spouse, sibling, child, friend or caregiver.
Institutional Elder Abuse: Maltreatment of an older person that occurs in residential facilities for older persons such as nursing homes, group homes or board and care facilities.
There are six types of elder abuse:
Financial Exploitation: The theft or misuse of an elderly person's funds, property or assets. For example, withholding money, cashing their checks without authorization, forcing the sale of property or stealing their money or possessions.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse: The willful infliction of mental suffering, pain or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts. For example, verbal assaults, humiliation, instilling fear, intimidation, threatening or belittling.
Neglect: The refusal or failure to provide necessary custodial care. For example, withholding food or medical attention, failure to assist with personal hygiene or leaving a senior in an unsafe or isolated place.
Physical Abuse: Use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain or physical impairment. For example, direct hitting or pushing, forced confinement in a room, bed or chair, or overmedication or prolonged deprivation of food or water.
Sexual Abuse: Nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person, such as molestation, unwanted touching, or rape.
Self-neglect: Behavior of an elderly person that threatens their own safety or health. For example, the person's refusal to provide himself or herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter and or refusing medication.
Signs of Elder Abuse
There are several signs to look for in elder abuse, individual signs by themselves are not enough. Look for a pattern of signs, symptoms or events.
What to look for:
- Increasing depression or anxiety
- Withdrawn or timid behavior
- Physical injury
- Longing for death
- Vague or new health problems
- New or sudden poverty
- Anxious to please
- Conflicting stories
- Mounting resentment
- Shifting blame
- Aggressive/defensive behavior
- Substance abuse
- Unusual fatigue
For more information contact the Women's Health Resource Center at 415-600-0500 or the Community Health Resource Center at 415-923-3155.
What you can do…
- Learn more clearly what elder abuse is, why it happens, how to recognize it and what can be done about it.
- Retain as much power and control over your own life as possible.
- Report suspected abuse to the police or the Adult Protective Services located in your local Department of Human Services.
- If the abuse is occurring in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home, call the Long Term Care Ombudsman. They are listed in the yellow pages of your telephone directory under the classification of Senior Citizens' Services & Organizations.