Elder Abuse


Elderabuse has become a major issue in the world we live today. As aresult, every state has passed legislative bills on elder abuse toprotect elderly people from abuse. International Network forPrevention of (INPEA) was formed in 1997 to advocate forthe prevention of elder abuse and promote the human rights of olderpeople in the society (Laumann et al, 2008). The organization hasdesignated June 15 of every year as a World AwarenessDay. Several events are held on this day around the globe to raiseawareness about elder abuse and suggest mechanisms to prevent andfight this vice. Community based organizations, government agenciesand other institutions have now recognized elder abuse as a socialproblem that needs immediate intervention from a wide range ofstakeholders. In USA alone, there are more than five hundred thousandreported cases on elder abuse every year (Laumann et al, 2008).

Theprimary culprits of elder abuse are caregivers who spend most oftheir time with the elderly people. Instead of given them physicaland emotional support, such caregivers may abuse them for their ownpleasure or benefits. In my learning process, I have learned quite anumber of issues related to elder abuse including: definition, typesof elder abuse, signs and symptoms, risk factors, and ways ofreporting or helping the elderly.


Centerfor Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines elder abuse as anyform of abuse on people aged 60 years and above by a caregiver or anyother person related to the older person in a way that generates anexpectation of trust (Center for Disease Control and Prevention,2014). Elder abuse therefore includes harm by those people known bythe older person or those related to them in one way or another.Administration on Community Living (ACL) also defines elderly abuseas an intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other personthat causes harm to an adult who is vulnerable (Administration onCommunity Living, 2015). According to Prevention Unit(EAPU), elder abuse is a repeated or single act or lack of properaction, occurring in a relationship with trust expectations, andcauses distress or harm to older people ( and PreventionUnit, 2014). This definition was developed by Action on in 1993 in the UK, and was adopted by the world Health Organization.

Typesor forms of

Elderabuse can occur in form of physical, sexual, psychological, neglect,abandonment or financial abuse. These are explained below:

  • A physical abuse takes place when an older person is physically injured intentionally by a caregiver or any other related person (Administration on Community Living, 2015). Physical injuries may include biting, pushing, hitting, scratching, burning, etc. older people may also be abused physically through assault or threats, and inappropriate restrains.

  • Sexual abuse refers to any sexual contact made with an older person against their will. It may occur when the older person does not understand the act or not able to communicate (Laumann et al, 2008). It may also include intentional touching of genitals, anus or breast of an older person against their own will.

  • Emotional/psychological abuse is a traumatic experience of an older person after being threatened or coerced (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). This may occur due to social isolation, limited access to amenities, property destruction, etc.

  • Neglect occurs when a caregiver or someone expected to be trusted refuses to provide basic needs or emotional needs to the older person (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). This includes lack of proper hygiene, lack of clothing or shelter, and poor healthcare.

  • Abandonment refers to caregiver’s act of leaving or deserting an older person intentionally.

  • Financial abuse takes place when a caregiver uses the older person’s financial resources without proper authority for their own interests, e.g. forgery, theft, coercive or deceptive acquisition of finances, and inappropriate use of power of attorney.

Signsof Elder abuse

Anabused older person is likely to exhibit certain signs and symptomsthat distinguish them from normal adults. First, an older person whohas experienced physical abuse is likely to have signs of injury,including scars and bruises (Administration on Community Living,2015). If the adult cannot be able to explain the causes of theinjuries, then he or she is likely to be suffering from elder abuse.Physical abuse can also be identified through sprains and brokenbones, and drug overdose of improper medication. Rope marks may alsoindicate signs of restrain.

Emotionalabuse can be noted through belittling, controlling and threateningbehaviour of the caregiver. Behavioral changes in the adult can alsoindicate dementia, e.g. mumbling. Bruises around genitals and breastsmay also be signs of sexual abuse. Furthermore, elder sexual abusemay be identified through genital infections, stained undergarmentsand unexplained bleeding in the vagina. Malnutrition or dehydrationmay also be a sign of neglect from the caregiver. Other signs ofneglect include: poor living conditions, dirtiness, improper attire,and abandonment in public places. Signs of financial abuse can alsobe noted through regular and significant cash withdrawal from theadult’s account, loss of cash or items, changes in wills and powersof attorney, and rising bills.


Elderabuse is always encouraged by the needs of the older person whichintersects with old age dependence and care giving demands (Cooper etal, 2008). Some of the common risk factors in this situation include:risk factors of the caregivers and the conditions and history of theelder.


Elderpeople are likely to be abused by stressed or depressed caregivers. and Prevention Unit (2014) suggests that caring for anelderly person is stressful. Some factors that contribute tocaregiver’s stress include: financial problems, lack of externalsupport, costs of care giving, and personal distress.


Anelderly person is not able to do things on their own to earn income.Instead, they solely depend on young people to meet their needs. Thismakes them vulnerable to the people they depend on. Older peopleusually experience impairments such as physical disability, cognitivedisabilities or dementia ( and Prevention Unit, 2014).These conditions prevent the victims of elder abuse from getting outof the abusive relationship with the caregiver.


Thecaring situation of a family may lead to domestic violence thattranslates to elder abuse at old age. Furthermore, a child who wasabused by his or her parents may become the primary caregiver at oldage, continuing the cycle of abuse. Intergenerational conflicts mayalso arise within a family, leading to elder abuse.


Anisolated care giving environment may lead to elder abuse in form ofrestrains, financial forgery and misuse, sexual abuse and physicalabuse ( and Prevention Unit, 2014). It is easy for thecaregiver to remove money from the elder’s wallet if they are in anisolated location where the elder may not scream or raise alarm. Theelders may also be forced to change their will and restrained inisolated areas where they may not be able to report the abuse.


Themost important approach to elder abuse prevention is to createcollaborations and partnerships between medical personnel,caregivers, relatives, community based organizations and governmentagencies (Anetzbergeret al, 2000). and Prevention Unit (2014) proposes that older peopleshould actively participate in community projects and develop anetwork of friends, relatives and neighbors. This enables them tosecure help and assistance when they experience abuse. They shouldalso work closely with community health workers to improve theirhealth, and participate in church activities.

Governmentagencies and community based organizations should also createawareness among the older people so that they can detect any abusivebehavior of caregivers and avoid it before it happens (Laumann et al,2008). For instance, they may be trained on financial issues andencouraged to seek financial advice from their banks before makingany financial decision, especially changes in power of attorney andwill. Community involvement may also be enhanced through programsthat are designed to meet the needs of older people ( andPrevention Unit, 2014). For example, Financial Abuse Specialist Teamshave been formed in United States to provide advice to caregivers,older people, attorneys, and law enforcement authorities regardingthe mechanisms of financial abuse and how to prevent them.


Administrationfor Community Living (2015). Administrationon Aging (AoA): What is ?Accessed August 7, 2015 fromhttp://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/elder_rights/EA_prevention/whatisEA.aspx.

Anetzberger,G., Palmisano, B.R., Eckert, S., Schimer, M.R. (2000). A modelintervention for elder abuse and dementia. Gerontologist,40(4), 492–497.

Centerfor Disease Control and Prevention (2014). ElderAbuse: Definitions. AccessedAugust 7, 2015 fromhttp://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/definitions.html.

Cooper,C., Selwood, A. and Livingston, G. (2008). The prevalence of elderabuse and neglect: a systematic review. AgeAgeing,37 (2), 151–160.

ElderAbuse and Prevention Unit (2014). ElderAbuse: What is ?Accessed August 7, 2015 from http://www.eapu.com.au/elder-abuse.

Laumann,E.O., Leitsch, S.A., Waite, L.J. (2008). Elder mistreatment in theUnited States: Prevalence estimate from a nationally representativestudy. Journalsof Gerontology: Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences,63(4), 248–254.