The Hidden Issue of Elder Abuse

The definition of elderly abuse is the mistreatment of the elderly that is inflicted by someone else as opposed to self-neglect which is often a result of mental deterioration or other disabilities. It may consist of passive neglect, psychological abuse, financial abuse, active neglect or physical abuse. Life expectancy has increased since the turn of the century. And for many aging adults, retirement is looked forward to as a time to slow down and enjoy their family, community and friends. But for some older adults, especially those dependent on other people for their care and well-being, their years of contentment may turn to years of abuse.

It has been estimated that in one in every 25 people over the age of 65 is the victim of elder abuse. This abuse, committed by someone who is in a position of trust or who has power over the victim, can take several forms. Abuse includes: physical, emotional, financial and neglect.

Neglect can be anything from the withholding of food, water or proper clothing, to not replacing an older person’s broken eyeglasses.

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Financial abuse is the misuse of the victim’s money or the abuse of a Power of Attorney. Physical harm may come to an older person if his or her caregiver physically abuses him or her by hitting, punching or kicking. And many elderly are emotionally abused by being isolated from friends and family or by being intimidated or threatened by their caregiver. Some elderly also suffer from unintentional neglect due to a lack of understanding of their needs.

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For example, a caregiver may not provide a safe environment if they fail to realize that scatter rugs and poor lighting on stairs can be a hazard to elderly people. Or the caregiver may not know the nutritional requirements of the person in their care and may not provide him or her with the proper food.

What is emotional or psychological abuse of elders? This type of abuse is the most difficult to prove, since it leaves no visible traces. It can involve name calling, scolding or shouting or ignoring, intimidating or threatening an elder. Treating an elder like a child or taking all of his or her power to make choices away are also forms of psychological abuse. What are some of the signs of emotional or psychological abuse? There are many indicators that an elder may be suffering from psychological or emotional abuse. He or she may have low self-esteem, have trouble sleeping, or be withdrawn or passive. The elder may show fear in the presence of the caregiver, or may defer to the caregiver. For example, if asked a question, the elderly person may wait for the caregiver to answer. If elders are excluded from family gatherings, or not allowed visitors, psychological abuse may be occurring. In addition, if a relative or caregiver speaks for an elder or makes decisions for him or her with no consultation, the caregiver may be psychologically abusing the elder. Physical abuse includes bruises, unexplained injuries, burns, restraints, sexual assault, deprivation of food or water. Signs of neglect include sores, malnutrition, dehydration, untreated medical conditions, health and safety hazards. Intimidation, Cruel Punishment. Verbal and mental abuse is characterized by threats, harassment or intimidating behavior causing fear, humiliation or emotional distress, including use of isolation, withholding of mail, phone calls or visitors; false imprisonment or restraints without instruction from a physician.

Seniors may also be suffering from financial exploitation including theft, misuse of funds, extortion or fraud. Involuntary isolation may be imposed on these citizens by isolating someone as punishment against their will. Withholding mail, telephone calls or visitors. Although these citizens are older, they are may not be able to take care of themselves properly. There may be a case of abandonment when a caregiver leaves a dependent adult or elderly person alone who is unable to care for herself or herself. For elders to be taken advantage of by someone they thought they could trust is devastating and can be very embarrassing to report. When helping someone through this, remember that they are not alone and they do not deserve this treatment. It is important to talk to someone such as a physician, a counselor, a public health nurse, the police or a women’s shelter. Legal advice can also be obtained to help with this problem and it is important that it is dealt with immediately to ensure proper care of loved ones.


Elder Abuse – The Hidden Crime

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The Hidden Issue of Elder Abuse. (2022, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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