According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), one in every ten Americans age 60 and over experience elder abuse each year, many of them in multiple ways. Unfortunately, this is a crime that is severely under-reported, as it is estimated that only one in fourteen cases is ever brought to the attention of authorities.
According to the NCEA, elder abuse comes in a wide variety of forms. Please note that this list can be very difficult to read due the nature of its content.
- Physical Abuse– This is defined as any physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. This not only includes the types of physical abuse most commonly thought of, such as hitting, shoving, and kicking, but more insidious ones, such as force-feeding, intentionally administering drugs inappropriately, or use of physical restraints. Signs of physical abuse include bruises, fractures, sprains, broken eyeglasses, and sudden changes in behavior on the part of the elder.
- Sexual Abuse– This is defined as any type of non-consensual sexual act with an elderly individual. This includes not only rape, but forced nudity and sexually explicit photographing. Signs of sexual abuse include bruises around genitalia, genital infections, unexplained vaginal bleeding, and underwear that is torn, stained, or bloody.
- Emotional or Psychological Abuse– This is defined as the infliction of pain or anguish through verbal or nonverbal threats. This includes verbal insults, threats, humiliation, intimidation, and isolation. Signs of emotional abuse include the senior being emotionally agitated or withdrawn.
- Neglect– This is defined as a failure or refusal to fulfill obligations of care toward an elder. This includes not providing the elder with water, food, shelter, clothing, medication, hygiene, and personal safety. Signs of neglect include bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, and hazardous or unsanitary living conditions.
- Abandonment– This is defined as the desertion of an elderly person by someone who has assumed responsibility for caring for them. This does not have to mean leaving an elder alone in a public place; an individual can be considered abandoned even if they are left in the care of a hospital or nursing facility.
- Financial of Material Exploitation– This is defined as improper or illegal use of an elder’s money, assets, or property. This includes cashing checks in their name without permission, forging their signature, theft of property, and coercing an elder to sign a legal document. Signs of financial exploitation include unexplained withdrawals in the elder’s bank account, abrupt changes in their will, and unexplained disappearances of their possessions.
In any of these cases, if you suspect elder abuse is being committed against someone, it is extremely important and urgent for you to report it as soon as possible. If the abuse has occurred in an assisted living home, you should contact the ombudsperson assigned to that facility. Otherwise, please contact the Office of Adult Protective Services (APS) in your state. This office will take your report, and investigate, evaluate, and monitor the situation. If needed, APS will arrange for medical care, legal assistance, emergency shelter, and other support services for the victim.