Types of Elder Abuse

There are many forms of elder abuse, including physical force, financial exploitation, and even sexual mistreatment. All types of elder abuse can bring serious harm — or even death — to elderly people. Learn about the types of elder abuse and if you can access financial compensation through legal action.

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What Are the Types of Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse does not just describe physical injuries — it includes a broad range of problems related to the care of older Americans. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) has identified 7 types of elder abuse.

The 7 types of elder abuse are:

  • Abandonment
  • Elder neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Self-neglect
  • Sexual abuse

A wheelchair-bound older adult sits in a room

Anyone can commit elder abuse, including nursing home staff members, live-in caregivers, or even loved ones. No matter what form it takes or who is responsible, all types of elder abuse are a threat to the well-being of older people.

Fortunately, there are options if your loved one has suffered from elder abuse. You can file reports with local police or advocacy groups such as Adult Protective Services (APS).

You can also work with an attorney to pursue financial compensation from an abusive nursing home. Get a free case review to see if you qualify today.

Take Legal Action

Speak with a trusted nursing home abuse lawyer today.

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Quick Facts About Elder Abuse Types

  • As many as 5 million older adults suffer from different types of elder abuse each year, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).
  • Any type of elder abuse can occur in assisted living facilities. These cases are known as nursing home abuse. Staff members often commit nursing home abuse.
  • The underreporting of elder abuse remains a big problem — many cases are not brought to justice. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that for every case of physical abuse that’s reported, 20 cases go unreported.
  • The NCOA estimates that a total of $36.5 billion each year is lost in elder financial abuse cases.

Learn more about the types of elder abuse below.

Physical Elder Abuse

Physical abuse is any form of harm that injures an elder’s body. Examples of physical elder abuse include kicking, punching, and shoving.

Signs of physical elder abuse include:

  • Broken bones
  • Bruises
  • Cuts
  • Sprains
  • Other injuries

In 2021, a nursing home staff member was arrested after police said he punched and slapped a 90-year-old resident. Evidence of the abuse was caught on video, according to reports.

While any nursing home resident can suffer from this type of elder abuse, some are at a higher risk than others. For example, roughly 10% of those who cared for patients with dementia admitted to physically abusing them at some point, according to Arizona State University.

Have you or a loved one experienced physical abuse in a nursing home? Call (800) 896-7040 to pursue compensation and justice today.

Sexual Elder Abuse

Sexual elder abuse is forced sexual contact of any kind, including kissing, inappropriate touching, and rape.

Sexual elder abuse examples and signs include:

  • Bruising or other injuries around the genitals
  • Mental and emotional trauma
  • Onset of sexually transmitted diseases

A study on elder sexual abuse from Justice Quarterly found that over 66% of victims were women. Nearly 80% of those who committed sexual abuse were men.

According to a news report, a former nursing home employee was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting 12 female residents, including a 94-year-old resident.

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, a human rights expert from the United Nations (UN), expects elder sexual abuse cases to increase as time goes on. Kornfeld-Matte also noted that most sexual abusers are family, friends, or caregivers — not strangers.

Emotional Elder Abuse

Emotional elder abuse (also known as psychological abuse) occurs when an elder is threatened, screamed at, or ignored by caretakers.

Warning signs of emotional elder abuse include:

  • Fear of caregivers or other nursing home residents
  • Social isolation from loved ones or friends
  • Symptoms of anxiety and/or depression
  • Other negative, sudden changes in a loved one’s mood

Emotional mistreatment often occurs alongside other types of abuse. In one study, 95% of elderly women who were physically abused also suffered emotional abuse.

older woman with a mask looking out a window

In 2012, a hidden camera caught staff members in Oklahoma emotionally and physically abusing a 96-year-old resident. One staff member taunted the resident while others physically harmed her.

As a result, Oklahoma passed legislation that officially allowed all nursing home residents to have hidden cameras placed in their rooms.

Financial Elder Abuse

Financial elder abuse occurs when loved ones, caretakers, or strangers steal money or other valuables from an older adult.

Financial elder abuse examples and signs include:

  • Checks for large amounts written out to caregivers
  • Strange changes to power of attorney
  • Unpaid bills

Each victim of financial abuse loses tens of thousands of dollars on average, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Elders aged 70-79 lost the most (over $45,000 per person), while those aged 50-59 lost the least (over $13,000).

Some elders can even lose more. In 2020, four people were arrested and accused of stealing nearly $200,000 from a 102-year-old woman who survived the Holocaust. Three of them were caretakers and the fourth was in charge of the woman’s finances.

Sadly, financial exploitation among the elderly is on the rise. According to the CFPB and AARP, there were 63,500 reports of elder financial abuse in 2017. This was four times greater than the number of reports filed in 2013.

Elder Neglect

Elder neglect occurs when an older person is not properly cared for and develops health issues as a result. Elder and nursing home neglect can be just as deadly as any other type of abuse.

Signs of elder neglect include:

  • Development of bedsores
  • Lack of medical care for health problems (such as untreated infections)
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Poor personal hygiene

Elder neglect can sometimes have deadly consequences. For example, a woman died after her catheter became blocked while living in a nursing home.

The woman was rushed to the hospital but unfortunately passed away due to complications from sepsis. The woman’s devastated family sued the nursing home and received $2 million.

Get a free case review if your loved one was harmed due to elder neglect in a nursing home. Compensation may be available in your case.

Take Legal Action

Speak with a trusted nursing home abuse lawyer today.

Get a Free Case Review

Elder Abandonment

Elder abandonment occurs when a caregiver abruptly stops caring for an older person and leaves them to fend for themselves.

The New York Times recently reported that nursing homes evicted elderly residents to make room for COVID-19 patients and increase their profits. Studies also found that over 6,400 nursing home residents in 46 states had been unfairly discharged as of 2020.

In one case, an 88-year-old man with dementia was found wandering Los Angeles after a nursing home kicked him out. The facility didn’t even bother to notify his family members before evicting him.

Further, between February and May of 2020, New York nursing homes tried to eject nearly 30 residents and put them in homeless shelters. Most of these attempts were blocked by nursing home ombudsmen who feared for the safety of the residents.

Elder Self-Neglect

Elder self-neglect occurs when an elder cannot properly care for themselves. For example, an older person with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble with basic tasks like preparing meals or bathing.

It’s important to distinguish self-neglect from the other types of elder abuse. Sometimes, loved ones may think an elder is suffering from self-neglect only to find out someone else has been neglectful or even abusive.

A recent study conducted in Chicago found that 9-10% of older men and 7.5-8.5% of older women were neglecting themselves.

Another study found that 11% of older African American men suffered from self-neglect, compared to 2.4% of older white men.

Next Steps After Suspected Abuse

If you believe a loved one is suffering from any type of elder abuse, take action now. There are a variety of resources you can access to report nursing home abuse and get help.

Get help by contacting any of the following:

Steps to Filing a Lawsuit

Getting Help for Types of Elder Abuse

All types of elder abuse are unacceptable. Older people deserve respect and high-quality care.

Families often turn to long-term care facilities for help when older people can no longer care for themselves. Nursing homes are expected to provide proper care so older adults can enjoy their golden years.

Yet far too often, elders in these facilities suffer from physical injuries or illnesses that may have been prevented with proper medical care. Some may even experience other types of elder abuse, such as neglect or sexual mistreatment.

Fortunately, help may be available if you or a loved one was abused in a nursing home. By working with skilled attorneys, you can pursue justice and compensation from abusive or neglectful staff.

Get a free case review to see if you can work with an attorney after abuse occurs.

FAQs About Types of Elder Abuse

What are the 7 types of elder abuse?

The 7 types of elder abuse include physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse, along with elder neglect, self-neglect, and abandonment. While some forms are more common than others, all types of abuse can have a devastating effect on an older person’s health.

What is the most common type of elder abuse?

Emotional elder abuse is the most common form, according to recent studies. A 2020 study from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 1 in 3 nursing home staff members admitted to psychologically abusing residents.

Roughly 1 in 20 elders suffer from emotional abuse every year, according to Arizona State University.

Which type of elder abuse is the hardest to detect?

Sexual mistreatment is the least common type of elder abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the WHO. Only 2% of older adults and less than 1% staff reported cases of sexual abuse in a 2020 study from the WHO.

This does not necessarily mean that elder sexual mistreatment is rare, though. A CNN report noted that elder sexual abuse often goes unreported — particularly when an elder suffers from mental impairments like dementia.

How can I get help for different types of elder abuse?

You can get help for different types of elder abuse by reaching out to senior advocates. These advocates include nursing home ombudsmen, the police (in the event of an emergency), local APS officers, and nursing home abuse lawyers.

See if you can get legal help for different types of elder abuse with a free case review.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

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 16, 2023

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