Elder Abuse: What Can You Do?

Almost one in ten adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited according to the National Institute on Aging. Abuse includes any intentional act that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. It can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone, but particularly the most vulnerable members of our society.

You might think that if someone is being abused, they will tell someone. But that is not always the case. Too often, elderly people are being abused by their primary caregiver so reporting the abuse may change where they live and who can care for them. You can reduce opportunities for elder abuse by understanding what it is, what it looks like, and what you can do to help.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is the abuse that occurs at the hands of a caregiver or a person the elder trusts. The abuse is intentional and causes or creates harm to an older adult. Abuse can also be a failure to act on behalf of a person who requires care that results in harm. By definition, “old age” starts at 60.

Types of Abuse



Emotional or psychological


What is the Leading Cause of Elder Abuse?

Caregiver stress. By far, the increasing demands and too few resources often contribute to abuse. Chronic fatigue, too many daily responsibilities, and failing health often leads caregivers to run out of patience and elevate the risk of abusive behavior. 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents are attributed to a family caregiver.

Elder abuse can have severe effects on an older adult. Long-term effects can be both physical and emotional. To help prevent elder abuse, it is important to educate ourselves on how to recognize elder abuse in our quickly growing population of senior adults.

What are Signs of Elder Abuse?

Signs of elder abuse may look different with different people. One person might look extremely agitated or upset while another appears withdrawn. While senior adults may react and respond differently, it is important to take note of sudden changes in behavior.

Physical Abuse

Black Eyes


Broken bones

Open wounds

Medication overdose/under-utilization

Emotional Abuse

Emotionally upset or agitated


Unusual behavior

Personality changes

Change in sleep/eating pattern

Seniors will not often say when they are being abused. You may observe an interaction when the caregiver appears controlling or the older adult’s behavior changes in the presence of a specific person. There are red flags for any type of abuse – be aware and trust your instincts when you encounter an uncomfortable interaction with a senior and their caretaker.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Abuse?

The abuse of older people can have serious and lasting physical, mental, financial, and social consequences. Some physical injuries can result in depression, cognitive decline, and even premature mortality. Cases of financial abuse can leave a senior adult financially devastated. Bottomline: long-term abusive treatment of any kind towards an elder results in diminished quality of life.

How Can You Prevent Elder Abuse?

The first step in preventing elder abuse is to recognize it. As a senior person, stay active in your community and maintain regular contact with family and friends. An isolated senior is an easy target, and an abuser will do what they can to keep the senior separated from family and friends.

For friends or neighbors of a senior who is usually active and engaged in social events, take notice if they have stopped participating. Take action and pick up the phone to check on them. Or – even better – visit them in person so you can see that they are safe from harm.

How Can You Spot Elder Abuse if You Live Far Away?

Whether you live in another state or across town, keeping tabs on an elderly family member can be challenging. This is the perfect time to embrace the concept that it takes a village!  Connect with services that help a senior stay strong, independent, and engaged.

In-Home Services

Mobile Medical Provider

Home Health Care

Case Manager

A Mobile Medical Provider can make regular visits to keep a senior healthy at home. The direct benefit of a mobile primary care provider is that they come to the home, giving them an inside look at what is going on. Mobile Medical Services can also include Occupational Therapy and other services that can help support a senior at home and add more socialization to the senior’s schedule.

A private duty caregiver is a wonderful way to stay connected to a senior. From setting up technology to help keep in touch with family to assisting with everyday activities, Home Health Care is a smart way to keep seniors engaged and involved in their community. Worried about an aging adult who still drives? The private duty caregiver can get them where they need to go and provide much-needed companionship.

What is Private Case Management?

A Private Case Manager can be a conduit between an aging adult and all the services they need to stay healthy and active at home. These aging experts can help coordinate everything from doctor’s appointments to private duty care to filling up a social calendar. A Private Case Manager can step up when family isn’t available or offer valuable guidance and oversight to local family members who are overwhelmed.

Many Elder Law Attorneys refer to Private Case Managers to provide help for their clients. Only a select few have in-house case management which offers an extra layer of security for their clients – the checks and balances of a law firm. This is particularly comforting when the client needs help with financial matters, such as paying bills, and the case manager needs access to personal accounts.

A Financial Example

A recent AARP study found that an estimated $28.3 billion is lost to elder fraud scams each year. Who is monitoring your aging parents' bank and other financial accounts for fraud? For financial matters, it is additional peace of mind to have a case manager from an Elder Law firm looking through the books.

(Would you believe your aging parents could be making monthly payments on a stranger’s cell phone bill or supplement subscriptions without even knowing it? It happens.)

Simply put, our nation is aging. The burden and stress of caregiving affect more people than ever before, creating more opportunities for physical and mental abuse. And with scams and financial abuse steadily increasing, our senior population will be at risk for a long time to come.

Take steps to reduce financial stress with a solid aging plan created by a qualified Elder Law Attorney. Learn more about how their knowledge and experience can help you plan for the future and protect your family – and your legacy – in the Legal and Financial Section of our Blog.

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