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Elder Abuse

Table of Contents


What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an older person. It can be physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect. The person who does it may be a caregiver, a family member, a spouse, or a friend.

Elder abuse can include:

What are the types of abuse?

The 1987 Amendment to the Older Americans Act identified three types of elder abuse. They are:

Domestic elder abuse.

It usually takes place in the older adult's home. Or it may take place in the home of the caregiver. The abuser is often a relative, close friend, or paid companion.

Institutional abuse.

This is abuse that takes place in a residential home (such as a nursing home), a foster home, or an assisted-living facility. The abuser is paid or contracted to care for the older adult.


This is behavior of an older adult that threatens his or her own health or safety. It happens when an older adult refuses or fails to provide himself or herself with enough food, water, clothing, shelter, or medicine. It can also include not being clean or safe.

What are the signs of abuse?

Signs of elder abuse depend on the type of abuse.

Signs that an older person is the victim of violence may include:

Signs of possible sexual abuse include:

Emotional or psychological abuse is possible if the older person:

Signs of neglect may include:

Signs of abandonment include leaving an older person at a hospital, nursing facility, shopping center, or other public location.

Signs of financial abuse include:

What factors can make abuse more likely?

Elder abuse is a complex problem, and many things can contribute to it. Risk factors include:

How can you get help?

If you are worried that someone you know might be a victim of elder abuse, talk to your doctor. Ask him or her what to look for, what the risks are, and what help is available.

To report elder abuse or to get help, call Adult Protection Services (APS) in your state.

Credits for Elder Abuse

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Gayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine

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