An older woman sits sadly behind a window

What Percentage of Elder Abuse Is Done by Family Members?

Family members commit elder abuse in nearly 6 out of 10 cases, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Other studies found that family members are the most common perpetrators of nearly every type of elder abuse. Learn how to keep an older person you love safe.

Family and the Problem of Elder Abuse

Older adults deserve to be loved and protected by their family members. Sadly, this does not always happen. In fact, recent studies show that family members are the most common abusers of elderly people.

“Abusers are both women and men. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two-thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.”

— The National Council on Aging (NCOA)

The NCOA’s findings are not unique. A 2019 study from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine found that family members were the most commonly reported perpetrators of almost all types of abuse.

In the USC study, family members committed:

  • Nearly 62% of financial abuse cases
  • 35% of emotional abuse cases
  • 20% of elder neglect cases
  • 12% of physical abuse cases
  • 0.3% of sexual abuse cases

Furthermore, family members committed multiple types of abuse more than 32% of the time.

In light of these studies, it’s important to keep your loved one as safe as possible. Whether family members, in-home nurses, or nursing homes are taking care of an elderly person you love, make sure you check up with them regularly.

Report any possible signs of elder abuse or neglect to proper authorities (such as 911 in an emergency). You can also contact our team to get a free case review — compensation may be available if physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect has occurred.

Why Do Family Members Commit Elder Abuse?

The loved ones and family of elderly people can be abusive for many reasons. These can range from stress and resentment to just plain carelessness. Remember, though: none of these issues make it OK to harm an elderly person.

Our team has outlined some of the reasons why family members may harm their older loved ones in more detail below.

Stress

It’s no secret that caring for an older adult can be stressful. Older adults may suffer from a wide range of mental and physical health problems, like Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and many more afflictions, which can make it hard to care for them.

Caring for an elder with chronic and serious health problems can place a lot of stress on their families. And while many families have the means to properly cope with this stress, others may take it out on the senior by striking them, screaming at them, or calling them names.

Resentment

Not all family members get along, and when an elder needs full-time care from their loved ones, it can worsen already-strained relationships. Family members may hold a grudge against an older relative, especially if the senior requires full-time care that limits their caregiver’s daily activities.

Carelessness

Sometimes, family members don’t mean to harm an older adult in their care but simply do not know how to properly help them. While these cases of elder neglect are not always intentional, they can be just as harmful as abuse.

Severe cases of neglect can lead to bedsores that reach the bone, malnutrition, sepsis, or gangrene.

Greed

Older adults may have a lot of wealth or valuables. If an older person can no longer care for themselves or their finances, their family members may take advantage of this and steal money, jewelry, or other items. All of these are prime examples of financial elder abuse.

Family members may go one step further and take control of an older person’s power of attorney. This means the family member in question controls all of the elder’s major decisions — including ones involving their money.

Elder Abuse from Third-Party Caregivers

While many cases of elder abuse are committed by family members, any caregiver can commit abuse. This includes live-in nurses and staff at nursing homes.

The problem of nursing home abuse may be more common than once suspected. In a 2020 study from the World Health Organization (WHO), two-thirds of nursing home staff admitted to abusing older adults under their care. Abusive staff members betray the trust of residents as well as their family members.

Live-in caregivers can commit abuse or neglect just as easily. For example, an older man burned to death after lighting a cigarette and falling asleep even though he had a live-in caretaker who was supposed to keep an eye on him. The victim’s family received $1.75 million by working with a nursing home abuse lawyer.

How to Take Action Against Elder & Nursing Home Abuse

Elder abuse is never acceptable, whether it is committed by family, nursing home staff, or other caregivers. Thankfully, there are ways that you can take action if elder abuse occurs.

Always call 911 in the event of an emergency or a life-threatening situation.

You can also speak to:

  • Attorneys who handle elder abuse cases
  • Adult Protective Services
  • Nursing home ombudsmen
  • Trusted family members, friends, or doctors

Ideally, they can help you start the healing process after abuse occurs and recommend next steps to take.

It can be very hard to report elder abuse if a family member may be responsible. However, it’s important to do so. Elder abuse may worsen if it is left unchecked, and your elderly loved one could suffer even more injuries or even die.

All seniors deserve to live free from abuse or neglect. Get a free case review if an older adult you love has suffered from nursing home abuse. Our caring and dedicated team can listen to your story and help you determine the best course of action.

Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: November 24, 2021

View 3 References
  1. National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Get the Facts on Elder Abuse. Retrieved November 09, 2021, from https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse

  2. University of Southern California. (2019, September 16). Study: Financial abuse of older adults by family members more common than scams by strangers. Retrieved November 09, 2021, from https://hscnews.usc.edu/study-financial-abuse-of-older-adults-by-family-members-more-common-than-scams-by-strangers

  3. World Health Organization. (2021, October 4). Elder abuse. Retrieved November 09, 2021, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse