What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse takes many forms. It includes abuse, neglect, self-neglect or exploitation.
- Deliberate conduct that causes mental anguish.
- Psychological abuse dehumanizes or belittles the elder.
- Often, psychological abuse takes the form of name calling, threats of physical harm or threats of nursing home placement.
- Non accidental conduct that causes bodily harm.
- Physical abuse includes hitting, scratching, cuts, bruises, broken bones, physical restraint, attempted murder and murder.
- Daily living needs are not met by the caretaker or the older adult
- Neglect can be intentional or unintentional.
- A caregiver unintentionally neglects, forgets or is physically unable to meet the needs of the elder.
- A caregiver deliberately withholds necessities such as food, medical treatment or personal care.
- Self neglect occurs when older adults are unwilling or unable to care for themselves due to mental confusion or physical inability.
- Theft or misuse of money, assets or other valuables.
- Assets include cash, Social Security and retirement funds, real estate, jewelry, furniture or any other items of value.
- Exploitation can be perpetrated by family members, caregivers, housekeepers, sales persons, telephone scams, etc.
Why Does Elder Abuse Occur?
Most older adults eventually need help with daily living tasks such as meals, housekeeping, shopping, etc. Family members provide the majority of that care — only 5 percent of older adults live in nursing homes. Caring for an elderly person can be overwhelming or become physically impossible. Most families care for elders with love and respect, but when abuse occurs, a family member or caregiver is usually involved.
Why Don’t Older Adults Ask for Help?
Only one in six cases of elder abuse is reported. Abused elders rarely tell because of:
- Shame or embarrassment
- Fear of retaliation
- Sense of resignation or powerlessness
- Family loyalty
- Lack of credibility
- Fear of nursing homes or institutions