Types of Elder Abuse

There are many different forms of elder abuse, ranging from physical force to 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 whether you’re eligible for financial compensation through legal action.

What Are the Types of Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is not just physical injuries — it encompasses 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:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Emotional abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Financial abuse
  5. Elder neglect
  6. Abandonment
  7. Self-neglect

Anyone can commit elder abuse, including nursing home staff members or even family members. 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.

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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.

Physical signs of elder abuse include:

  • Broken bones
  • 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 also caught on video, according to reports.

Emotional Elder Abuse

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

Signs of emotional elder abuse include:

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

In 2012, a hidden camera caught staff members in Oklahoma emotionally abusing a 96-year-old resident. One staff member taunted the resident while others committed physical abuse.

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

Sexual Elder Abuse

Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, including kissing, inappropriate touching, and rape.

Signs of sexual elder abuse include:

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

In 2017, a former nursing home employee was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting 12 female residents. The oldest victim was 94 years old, according to a news report.

Financial Elder Abuse

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

Signs of financial elder abuse include:

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

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.

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:

  • Lack of medical care for health problems
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Poor personal hygiene

In 2020, a 76-year-old woman died as a result of poor care at the hands of her children, according to police records. Paramedics responded to an emergency call and found the woman living in filth. She had also developed bedsores.

Prosecutors determined the children deprived their mother of basic health care needs.

Abandonment

Elder abandonment occurs when a caregiver or loved one abruptly stops caring for an elder and leaves them to fend for themselves.

In 2020, the New York Times reported that nursing homes evicted elderly residents to make room for COVID-19 patients and increase their profits.

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 before evicting him.

Self-Neglect

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 living 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 neglected or even abused them.

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Elder Abuse Statistics by Type of Abuse

Statistics can help us understand how the types of elder abuse affect older people in different ways. Get key statistics on the types of elder abuse below.

Physical Elder Abuse

  • Roughly 10% of those who cared for patients with dementia admitted to physically abusing them at some point, according to Arizona State University.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that for every case of physical abuse that’s reported, 20 go unreported.
  • In a study conducted on elder abuse by family members, physical assault was the least commonly reported type, according to the NCEA.

Emotional Elder Abuse

  • A 2020 study from the World Health organization found that 1 in 3 nursing home staff members admitted to psychologically abusing residents.
  • Approximately 1 out of 20 elders suffer from emotional abuse every year, according to Arizona State University.
  • Psychological and emotional abuse often occurs alongside other types of abuse. In one study, 95% of elderly women who were physically abused also suffered emotional abuse.

Sexual Elder Abuse

  • Sexual mistreatment is the least common type of elder abuse, according to the DOJ and the WHO.
  • A 2010 study on elder sexual abuse found that 66% of victims were women. Nearly 80% of those who committed sexual abuse were men.
  • 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 other caregivers — not strangers.

Financial Elder Abuse

  • The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that elders lose at least $36.5 billion each year due to financial abuse.
  • Financial exploitation among the elderly is on the rise. There were 63,500 reports of elder financial abuse in 2017. This was four times greater than the number of reports filed in 2013. This data was reported by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and AARP.
  • Each victim of financial abuse loses tens of thousands of dollars on average, according to the CFPB. Elders aged 70-79 lost the most (over $45,000 per person), while those aged 50-59 lost the least (over $13,000).

Abandonment

  • In 2018, over 10,000 patients or family members complained to activist groups about nursing home evictions.
  • According to a New York Times report, over 6,400 nursing home residents in 46 states have been unfairly discharged as of 2020.
  • Between February and May 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.

Self-Neglect

  • A 2011 Chicago study found that up to 9-10% of older men and 7.5-8.5% of older women were neglecting themselves.
  • 11% of older African American men suffered from self neglect, compared to 2.4% of white men in a 2012 study.
  • A 2014 study found that over 18% of Chinese Americans in Chicago suffered from mild self-neglect. Nearly 11% suffered from moderate to severe self-neglect.

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 elder or nursing home abuse and get help.

Get help by contacting any of the following:

You can also see if you can take legal action if a loved one is suffering from elder abuse. Get a free case review right now.

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

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: April 15, 2021

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