Types of Elder Abuse

Most researchers agree that the abuse of the elderly fall within the five following categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and neglect


Physical Abuse – “Non-accidental physical force that results in injury”


  • fractures and dislocations

  • lacerations and abrasion and/ or burns

  • injuries to the head, scalp, face

  • bruises-on upper arms, around wrists or ankles, or in shapes


Physical frailty, decreased physical ability, and vision and audio impairments
make older persons especially susceptible to physical abuse


Sexual Abuse – “Non-consensual sexual contact”


  • sexually transmitted diseases

  • pain, itching, bleeding, or bruising in the genital area


As elderly victims are less physically able, often all that is needed to subdue them
during a sexual assault is intimidation by physical force


Psychological Abuse—
“Infliction of mental anguish by threat, intimidation, humiliation, or other”

Indicators Include:

  • low self-esteem

  • overly anxious or withdrawn

  • extreme changes in mood

  • depression and/or suicidal behavior

  • confusion or disorientation

Financial Abuse – “Unauthorized use of funds or property”

Financial abuse or exploitation involves the theft or conversion of money or property belonging to an elder, accomplished by force, misrepresentation, or other illegal means often by taking advantage of the elder’s partial or total lack of legal competency. The loss of what may appear to be a minimal amount of money to some may account for a substantial loss for an elder person.


Neglect – “Failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation”


  • poor personal hygiene

  • signs of overmedication, undermedication, and/or misuse of medication

  • incontinent elder dressed in soiled clothing

  • elder left alone and deprived of stimulation and affection and/or malnutrition

The different types of neglect include the following:
  • Active Neglect: willful failure to provide care

  • Passive Neglect: inadequate knowledge of caretaker, resulting in non-willful failure to provide care

  • Self-neglect: failure of elder to care for her or himself


In addition to the abuse that elderly persons are subject to by relatives and/or caretakers in their homes or in institutions, they may also become targets for criminal victimization. Contrary to popular assumptions that elderly citizens are disproportionately victims of crime as a result of their physical limitations, in reality, they are the least victimized age group. Yet, further examination does reveal that elderly persons may be subject to more severe crimes, and that they are more fearful of crime; thus the consequences of victimization are often more detrimental.


As the number of aging Americans continues to increase, the abuse and victimization of the elderly will become a national problem of even greater proportion. Effective programs to detect elder abuse and to treat its victims are necessary and should be established in every community.


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