Elder abuse tends to take place where the senior lives: most often in the home where abusers are often adult children, other family members such as grandchildren, or spouses/partners of elders. Elder abuse can also occur in institutional settings, especially long-term care facilities. Or in other form Elder abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional/psychological, sexual or financial harm on an older adult. Elder abuse can also take the form of intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver.
Abuse of elders takes many different forms, some involving intimidation or threats against the elderly, some involving neglect, and others involving financial chicanery. The most common are defined below.
Physical abuse- Physical abuse can range from slapping or shoving to severe beatings and restraining with ropes or chains. When a caregiver or other person uses enough force to cause unnecessary pain or injury, even if the reason is to help the older person, the behavior can be regarded as abusive. Physical abuse can include hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, kicking, pinching, burning or biting. It also includes the inappropriate use of medications and physical restraints and physical punishment of any kind.
Emotional abuse- emotional or psychological abuse can range from name calling or giving the “silent treatment” to intimidating and threatening the individual. When a family member, a caregiver or another person behaves in a way that causes fear, mental anguish or emotional pain or distress, the behavior can be regarded as abusive. Verbal and emotional abuse can include yelling, swearing and making insulting or disrespectful comments.
Sexual abuse – Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person. Sexual abuse can include inappropriate touching, photographing the person in suggestive poses, forcing the person to look at pornography, forcing sexual contact with a third party or any unwanted sexualized behavior. It also includes rape, sodomy or coerced nudity. Sexual abuse is perhaps the most egregious but least reported type of elder abuse.
Financial exploitation- Financial abuse and exploitation can range from misuse of an older person’s funds to embezzlement. Financial exploitation includes fraud, taking money under false pretenses, forced property transfers, purchasing expensive items with the older person’s money without that person’s knowledge or permission or denying the older person access to his or her own funds or home.
Healthcare fraud and abuse – Caregiver neglect can range from care giving strategies that withhold appropriate attention from the individual to intentionally failing to meet the physical, social or emotional needs of the older person. Neglect can include failure to provide food, water, clothing, medications and assistance with activities of daily living or help with personal hygiene. If the caregiver is responsible for paying bills for the older person, neglect can also include failure to pay the bills or to manage the older person’s money responsibly.
Elder abuse, like other forms of violence, is never an acceptable response to any problem or situation, however stressful. Effective interventions can prevent or stop elder abuse. Increasing awareness among physicians, mental health professionals, home health care workers and others who provide services to older adults and family members can help break patterns of abuse or neglect, and both the person experiencing the abuse and the abuser can receive needed help.