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What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse occurs when older adults (typically age 60 or over) suffer physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse at the hands of another party charged with their care and well-being. Both elder abuse and neglect unfortunately can be found in nursing homes and residential care facilities.

Who Are the Victims of Elder Abuse?

Although no formal or official definition determines who an elder adult is, this type of abuse typically occurs in adults age 60 and above. It is more common for women to be abused than men, although this challenge affects both sexes. Abuse is most common among those who rely on the assistance of someone else for their care.

Elders who are physically weak or frail, those with dementia, those with disabilities, and those with impaired communication abilities are most likely to fall victim to abuse or neglect.

The largest population facing the risk of elder abuse, however, are those older adults living in a nursing home or residential care facility.

What Are the Types of Elder Abuse?

This problem falls into one of five general categories. Victims can suffer one type of abuse or neglect or, in many cases, multiple forms.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse occurs when another person intentionally inflicts pain or harm. This may involve slapping, punching, kicking, shoving, or shaking the victim. Using restraints against the victim’s wishes is also a form of physical abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when another party intentionally inflicts emotional pain and suffering on an older adult. This may involve harassing, threatening, ridiculing, bullying and coercion. This type of abuse can be verbal or non-verbal.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation occurs when another party fraudulently uses or takes the victim’s financial assets or possessions. This may involve accessing the older person’s accounts, forging checks, or stealing jewelry or other valuables.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when another party forces the elder adult to engage in sexual contact without their consent. This may also involve forcing the victim to view sexually explicit contact as well as someone exposing themselves to the victim.


Elder neglect occurs when the victim fails to receive necessary medical treatment or basic life necessities. This may involve failure to diagnose or treat an illness or another medical condition. It may involve the failure to provide food, water, safety, comfort, or personal care.

What Are the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?

The warning signs of elder abuse depend on the type of abuse in question.

Warning Signs of Physical Abuse

Some of the most common signs include unexplained bruises, fractures, cuts, etc. Nursing homes frequently attribute the injuries to the victim’s clumsiness. In some cases, the victim will suddenly refuse to see visitors with no explanation. This occurs because the victim does not want to have to explain an injury due to fear or having been threatened.

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is often difficult to detect. Victims may undergo sudden, unexplained personality changes. They may develop depression, anxiety, agitation, or fearfulness. They may become withdrawn or uncommunicative. In some cases, the victim’s family and medical providers can mistake the signs of emotional abuse for the onset of dementia.

Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation

You may notice missing valuables, missing checks, or missing credit cards. Unexplained new accounts or charges may appear. Account balances may be low. Changes may occur with the victim’s will and other estate planning tools. Assets may suddenly appear in another party’s name. You may also notice the victim being overcharged for services or being charged for services they did not receive.

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

Although the warning signs of sexual abuse may be difficult to detect, victims can have unexplained pain or bruising in the groin area. They may experience pain or difficulty walking or sitting down. They may suffer from recurring urinary tract infections or sexually transmitted diseases.

In many cases, however, the only signs are behavioral. Behavioral symptoms of elder sexual abuse are like those of emotional abuse. Victims may develop anxiety or depression, become fearful or withdrawn, or display an unwillingness to speak.

Warning Signs of Neglect

In the case of general neglect, you may notice the victim having dirty bedding or soiled clothes. They may be dehydrated or malnourished. They may have an undiagnosed or untreated illness. They may not get the correct medication or the correct dosage. Or, in some cases, they may be left alone or isolated without care.

What Can You Do About Elder Abuse?

If you know that an older person’s life may be in danger, call 911 immediately. However, if you suspect your loved one may be the victim of systemic abuse in a nursing home or residential care facility, contact an elder or nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible.

A nursing home abuse lawyer can help you get the victim to a safe place. They can identify the party who abused your loved one and hold them responsible for their actions. They can help you recover compensation for the damages, so you can get the victim the help they need.

Call 1-800-516-4783 today to learn more.