Groups » Elder Abuse and Neglect - A Rising Concern That Needs to be Addressed Right Now

Elder abuse has turned into a national problem in recent times, although evidence suggests that it is a deep-rooted problem and has existed throughout a wide range of time. Unfortunately, there is no precise data about how many elder Americans are being subjected to abuse and neglect, although it is suspected that thousands of them have been victimized.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), there are various reasons behind this lack of official national statistics. First, the definitions of elder abuse and neglect vary, which make it rather difficult to identify the actions/inactions or behaviors that contribute to abuse. As a result, the problem usually remains unnoticed. And since there isn’t any uniform reporting system, statistics vary widely. Finally, there is no comprehensive national data about the number of elderly Americans suffering from abuse and neglect.

Abuse can be anything, from physical and sexual to mental and financial. Neglecting elders is also a form of abuse. In recent times, reports of vicious elder abuse cases have been revealed and the federal government is trying to create an environment of well-being and safety for senior citizens of the country.

The Current Situation

Although there no definite record of the number of elder Americans who are being subjected to abuse, the severity of the situation is quite obvious. For one thing, the elderly population in the U.S. is on rise. A NCEA report suggests that “people age 65 and older are expected to comprise 20% of the total U.S. population,” by 2050.

The report also suggests that there would be around 19 million people in the country aged 85 or older. Elder mistreatment therefore is likely to become a significant issue, if it is not addressed immediately. NCEA estimates that between 1 and 2 million elderly Americans have been abused, injured, mistreated and/or exploited by their caregivers. The frequency of elder abuse is somewhere between 2 percent and 10 percent. But to get into the details of this problem, you need to first understand what is elder abuse and its warning signs.

Elder Abuse and Warning Signs

Elder abuse occurs when a caregiver and/or any other person causes physical or mental harm or poses a serious risk of harm intentionally/knowingly to a vulnerable adult. This can include acts of a negligence. All 50 states have elder abuse prevention laws in place and although the definitions and laws vary from state to state, elder abuse falls under the following categories:

• Physical Abuse: This includes causing physical pain or injury to a senior citizen. Restraining them against their will by chemical or physical means is also considered as physical abuse.

• Emotional Abuse: When a caregiver or someone else because mental pain, distress or anguish to an elder person by means of verbal or nonverbal actions, it is defined as emotional or mental abuse.

• Sexual Abuse: This includes non-consensual sexual contact in any form.

• Exploitation: Misusing, forceful/illegal taking or concealment of funds, assets or property of an elderly American for someone else's benefit is considered as financial exploitation.

• Neglect: If the caregiver/people responsible to provide shelter, food, security and healthcare to a vulnerable elder fails to do so, it is a case of neglect.

• Self-Neglect: If the elderly citizen fails to perform essential and self-care tasks that threaten his/her safety or health, it is termed as self-neglect.

• Abandonment: When a caregiver or people responsible for a vulnerable elder desert him/her, the act is termed as abandonment.

As said, many of these incidents go unnoticed as elders do not often report the abuses because of their physical and emotional vulnerability. But if we are careful enough, there are certain tell-tale signs that can help you identify a case of abuse.

• Signs of physical abuse: Broken bones, bruises, abrasions, pressure marks and/or burns. These can also signify a case of neglect.

• Signs of emotional abuse: A sudden change in behavior, unexplained withdrawal from social life or normal activities and unusual depression.

• Signs of sexual abuse: Bruises around private parts especially around the genital area or breasts.

• Signs of exploitation: Sudden and unexplained change in financial situations.

• Signs of neglect: Unattended medical needs, bedsores, unusual weight loss, poor hygiene and so on.

These are just some of the examples and there are several other signs that can indicate that the elder has been subjected to abuse. In fact, frequent arguments and strained or tense relationships between elderly person and his/her caregiver also indicate abuse and mistreatment.

Unfortunately, many of these signs are missed by professionals working with these senior citizens. This is mainly because of the lack of training and their understanding of elder abuse. And in most cases, the elderly person is also reluctant to report such mistreatment due to their physical and cognitive inability to report and fear of retaliation. Since most abusers are family members, the elderly don’t want them in trouble and thus the abuse goes unnoticed.

However, things are changing for the better. According to the Adult Protective Services, more numbers of elder abuses are being reported now. In fact, many states have laws regarding mandatory reporting of elder abuse. Connecticut, for example, has this law in place that makes it mandatory for certain professionals to report elder abuse, abandonment, neglect or exploitation to the Department of Social Services. Failing to do so often means fines and other legal penalties for the mandated reporters. If you suspect an elder is being victimized by his/her caregiver or someone else, you can talk to a personal injury lawyer Connecticut to know more about this mandatory reporting law.


Even after having Adult Protective Services agencies in every state and most states embracing the mandatory reporting laws, a large number of elder abuse cases go undetected and unaddressed each year. This is really becoming a matter of concern and needs to be addressed immediately. It is essential to raise public awareness and encourage people to take a stand about elder abuse.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)

Join this group! Login with facebook