Preventing the 5 Kinds of Elder Abuse


Elder abuse affects four percent of the elder population every year. But, according to experts, less than one in 14 cases of elder abuse is reported to law enforcement authorities.

Elder abuse is any action that victimizes your parent to the gain of another person. The abuse may be a financial or investment scam or physically abusive to the elder. It may be deliberate in its harm; or it may be caused by incompetence of the person offering a particular caregiving service.

As a caregiver, be concerned about possible elder abuse by family members as well as conniving outsiders.

At the recent Pinal County Elder Abuse Conference in Casa Grande, Arizona, Special Assistant County Attorney Robert C. Brown presented elder abuse as it is, sadly, in the United States. Brown is recognized as a national expert on the subject and produced and hosted the new conference, his 13th annual event, to some 150 conference participants from aging services organizations plus police and prosecutorial agencies from throughout Arizona.

County Attorney Brown described elder abuse as: "Persons over 65 are subject to physical and mental illness, social isolation, life transitions and cultural biases which make manipulating them easy to do and difficult to prosecute."

There are five basic types of elder abuse: physical, sexual, psychological, financial and neglect. If others are involved, either in caregiving or as outside providers, be aware of the potential for elder abuse.

Federal and state regulations and laws mandate that many types of professionals providing service to people of your parent's age to report any suspicion they have of possible elder abuse to authorities. Physicians, visiting nurses, dentists, social workers and peace officers are all required by law to report what they suspect to be elder abuse. In some states, the person filing the suspicious elder abuse will not be identified in any action by authorities.

The 5 Types of Elder Abuse and How to Identify Them

Here is a summary from attorney Brown's presentation on elder abuse and how to identify it.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the use of "physical force which may result in bodily injury, physical pain or impairment," according to Brown. "Physical abuse may include such acts as striking, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching and burning," actions which may be done to the victim as the perpetrator assumes, even wrongfully, that he or she has receded to a seriously lower level of competence or mental ability.

Suspect physical abuse if you see signs of bruising (which can be caused by belts, buckles or electrical cords) burns, abrasions or fractures. Any signs of injury out of the ordinary should be questioned.

Sexual Abuse

Yes, this happens to older adults. Watch for genital or anal infection, difficulty in walking or sitting, or bilateral bruising of inner thighs.

Psychological Abuse

This is a tough consideration because the victim symptoms may be caused by other physical, mental, medical or aging problems. Watch others in the caregiving process. Is there someone who threatens Mom or Dad, speaks poorly of the parent, or ignores the mature adult or his or her needs?

Financial Abuse

"Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an elder's assets," according to Brown. "This may include cashing the elder's social security or pension checks without permission, taking money or property from the elder, coercing or deceiving the elder into parting with property or signing documents, and diverting guardianship or conservatorship assets." If you have someone in your family caregiving team who wants financial control, while personally being financially stressed, this is a distinct possibility.

Currently, financial abuse constitutes 12 percent of the abuse against the elderly in the United States, according to Brown.

Identify possible financial abuse if bank statements are no longer coming to the parent's home, the part-time (or even full-time) caregiver has no other means of financial support, there are missing assets or property or, importantly, if the caregiver appears to have a drug or alcohol habit.

Recently, an adult child caregiver for her parent in Seattle was charged by prosecutors in Seattle for stealing and stripping her parent's financial estate of $400,000. The request for investigation was lodged by the caregiver's sister as an important step in protecting her mother.


"Neglect is the failure of a person in charge of the care of an elder to adequately perform his or her obligations," Brown says. "This may include failure to provide medicines, hygiene, food or personal safety."

This may occur when the caregiver unintentionally fails to provide adequate care; or it may happen when the caregiver lacks the knowledge about how to provide the care or when he or she is unable to cope with the stresses of caregiving.

To spot neglect, look for neglected bedsores, skin disorders or rashes, untreated injuries or medical problems, poor hygiene, hunger, malnutrition or dehydration, pallor or sunken cheeks or eyes, or lack of clean clothing or bedding.

If you feel your parent may be a victim of some form of abuse, call 911, or the local/regional Area Agency on Aging, the police, the district attorney's office, or other state organizations, such as Adult Protective Services.

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Thank you for this article. My mother was a victim of elder abuse at the hands of her youngest that moved into her house - - - the worst part was attempting to get anything done about it.

My mother sadly lost her home, all of her possessions, all savings and nearly lost her life - she was sent to the ER. My sibling called me and told me that my mother was "gone".....when I checked it out with paramedics, I found out what hospital she was taken to. My sibling had introduced her friend/neighbor as my mothers other daughter and told the ER nurse my mother was out of it and that she (the sibling) had POA - although my mother was conscious my sibling said DO NOT RESCESITATE..... It was horrible, sad to learn the extent of what my sibling had done. All the signs were there- - -sadly no one would help until the whole thing blew up.

My mother now lives with me and is doing just fine 6 years after the event. The moral of the story is that if your parent is important - save them first - money and property may be lost, but you will never forgive yourself if you don't take action. YOu would be shocked at the lines that people will cross sometimes, I know I was.
Well Cat, this happened prior to my parents going into assisted living, so its a little more challenging to handle this. This couple has been "close" friends with my parents for 45+ years. When I stayed with dad for three weeks prior to them going into assisted living that's when I discovered what was going on. Mom kept all the trash as friends and kept those who honestly loved her away. Personally, I wouldn't expect anything less.

I did talk with the administration and we actually have a photo they requested I submit to them to watch for this couple "just appearing" for a visit. I've kept all the communication with dates and stamped envelopes to track information.

I now have an appointment with an attorney to see which needs to be done, a personal protection order or a restraining order. I have already talked to the church and apparently the "church" talked to this couple because I received a "direct" letter told not to use the word badgering or relentless when communicating with them and they will still wait to hear from me about going to see my parents.

I'm not sure what part of do not communicate they do not get... anyway, I digress. The only ally that has actually seen behaviors and such is my husband and all I can do is deal with this as we go. My husband believes I should let this couple visit my parents to get more on them and I'm like NO WAY!! It would just trigger mom and send her backwards emotionally. What you have to understand about my mother is she performed for different audiences accordingly. The people she associates with at church see the one side I will never be able to prove to them. They will some day have to experience mom for themselves.

I appreciate the info. I will keep in touch on this. Can't wait to have another attorney! LOL I live for drama... NOT!
My mom is being financially abused by a "friend," who she now calls her "new family." She is totally isolated by said friend from real family, and told we were "abusing" my mother, and had her phone bugged. They told her not to use her own telephone anymore, and that she needed to stop talking to her family. This person is getting paid at least $100 per month to drive mom to appointments. Her family was doing it out of their own pocket. Who's abusing who?????

Wow, Mitzi! I feel for you. Guess we have more in common then previously thought. I'm on the same path as you now.

I am not waiting. I found out about it today, and talked to the State Police today. We already had one parent lose his home over a financial abuse issue. Now they are working on my other parent. This same person told the authorities we were abusing mom. We can account for every penny! Now she's getting paid (and mom is OK with that). Already, thousands of dollars of antiques and silver have been given away. Now, another $100, plus $60 is going out to be "protecting" my mom. Some protection. And the guardian tells me it's court sanctioned. Time for a new lawyer, too!