According to the Justice Department, 10 percent of seniors are abused each year, with only 1 out of every 23 cases reported. The most likely victims are said to be women, people with cognitive impairments, people without relatives, those with disabilities and those who are ill-housed, poor, physically weak or socially isolated.
Elders can be exposed to a broad range of abuse, such as physical, medical, emotional, psychological, and sexual. Abuse is more common among those who rely on the assistance of someone else for their care. The largest population of elders facing the risk of abuse are those living in a nursing home or residential care facility.
The National Center on Elder Abuse claims that the study of elder abuse has not been as extensive as in other types of abuse, such as child abuse and domestic violence. This could be due to a lack of reporting of elder abuse for a variety of reasons, however, it is most likely because of who the perpetrators of the abuse actually are.
Oftentimes, perpetrators of elder abuse include caregivers, strangers, and family or friends. Since the abuse is done by a known person, many elders do not seek help out of love for a caregiver or embarrassment about the situation. Additionally, elders who do report abuse are more likely to be placed in nursing homes, enhancing their chances for further abuse.
Physical abuse in elders occurs when another person intentionally inflicts pain or harm. This may involve slapping, punching, kicking, shoving, or shaking the victim. Additionally, using restraints against the victim’s wishes when not necessary for their safety is also a form of physical abuse.
Warning signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises, fractures, cuts, etc. Nursing homes will often attribute the injuries to a fall or general clumsiness.
Emotional abuse occurs when another party intentionally inflicts emotional pain and suffering on an elder. This can include harassing, threatening, ridiculing, bullying, and coercion. This type of abuse can be verbal or non-verbal.
Warning signs include sudden, unexplained personality changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, or fearfulness.
Financial exploitation of an elder occurs when another party fraudulently uses or takes the victim’s financial assets or possessions. This can involve accessing the older person’s accounts, forging checks, or stealing jewelry or other valuables.
Warning signs include mission valuables, missing checks, or missing credit cards. Unexplained new accounts or charges and low account balances are also signs of something amiss.
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.
Warning signs include unexplained pain or bruising in the groin area or recurring urinary tract infections.
Elder neglect occurs when the victim fails to receive necessary medical treatment or basic life necessities. This can include failure to diagnose or treat an illness or another medical condition, or the failure to provide food, water, safety, comfort, or personal care.
Warning signs of neglect come in the form of malnourishment, dehydration, or an overall lack of cleanliness.