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When Neglect Has Become Elder Abuse

While 91 percent of federal abuse prevention dollars are spent on child abuse, 7 percent is spent on domestic abuse, and only 2 percent goes towards protecting the elderly. As we become older and age, many senior adults become more physically frail. We may not see or hear as well as we use to, and many develop cognitive problems such as dementia. As a result, the elderly become increasingly vulnerable to abuse and neglect.

Many seniors around the world are being abused: harmed in some substantial way often by people who are directly responsible for their care. Elder abuse most often takes place where the senior lives: in the home where abusers are a family member, trusted caregiver, or in institutional settings and long-term care facilities.

8 Facts About Elder Abuse

  • The five most common forms of elder abuse are: physical, emotional, psychological, financial and neglect.

  • Most victims are dependent on their abuser for their basic needs and care.

  • 2 million seniors become victims of abuse or neglect every year.

  • 1 in 9 American over the age of 60 has experienced some form of elder abuse.

  • In almost 90 percent of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.

  • For every reported incident of elder abuse, five go unreported.

  • Seniors who have been abused have a 300 percent higher risk of death compared to those who weren’t.

  • Almost 50 percent of seniors with dementia experience some form of abuse.

Warning Signs

  • Soiled or dirty clothing, inappropriate clothing for the weather, dirty or unbathed

  • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes

  • Unsafe living conditions

  • Malnourished, unusual weight loss, dehydration

  • If an older adult or family member won’t let others into the home there could be a problem

  • Untreated physical problems

  • Lack of attention to the home or a home that is in a state of disrepair

  • Odd noises or bad odors coming from within the home

  • Changes in personality such as a lack of interest or unusual nervousness

  • Bruises, bed sores, burns or other signs of harm

  • Giving older adults unnecessary tranquilizers or sleeping pills

  • Confining an older person by tying him or her to a bed or wheelchair.

  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists

  • Denying an older person necessities such as adequate food, water, needed medications, canes, walkers, hearing aids, and glasses

  • Unusual patterns of spending or financial withdrawals

  • Frequent purchases of inappropriate items, misuse of personal checks, credit cards, or accounts

  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies

  • Bills not being paid

  • Giving generous gifts to a “new best friend”

  • Intimidation, yelling, threatening, humiliation and ridicule

  • Isolation from friends and not being allowed to participate in enjoyable activities

  • Failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation

  • Refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

Healthcare Abuse

  • Charging for healthcare services that have not been provided

  • Overcharging, double-billing for medical care

  • Overmedicating

  • Receiving kickbacks for referrals to other providers or for prescribing certain drugs

  • Medicaid fraud

  • Recommending fraudulent remedies

  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full

Caregiving Risks

Many family members find taking care of a loved one to be satisfying and enriching. The responsibilities and demands of caring for an adult as their condition deteriorates can be extremely stressful. The stress can lead to mental and physical health problems that can create caregiving burn out. The inability to cope with stress, depression and lack of support from other family members can create situations where neglect and abuse are more likely to occur.

What To Do If You Experience Or Suspect Elder Abuse

You might be afraid to get involved, but it is important to speak up about suspected abuse. Rest assured that trained experts who investigate charges of abuse and neglect will examine the situation carefully and then take action to protect the safety of the older adult. Call Adult Protective Services, you don’t have to have proof of abuse or neglect but if you are concerned that this is happening, you should call. When you call for help, your name remains confidential. A representative from APS will come to the home and interview the person to see if they need assistance or need to be rescued. Call 911 or the local police for immediate help or if you or a love one is in immediate danger.

For more information contact the National Center on Elder Abuse at 1-800-677-1116 or visit the website at

If you are finding it difficult to juggle it all - work, family, errands and other demands that often leave you over taxed. Where do you turn when a loved ones needs are more than you can manage on your own? What do you do when some of the care alternatives seem like a complication rather than a solution? We understand, in fact, we have been there.

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