Elder abuse refers to the intentional harming of a vulnerable adult, whether it is a senior citizen or disabled person. This could be through intentionally inflicting pain (physical or emotional), neglect (self-imposed or caregiver related), or as a result of financial exploitation. Elder abuse causes serious risk and harm.
All 50 states have laws preventing elder abuse.
Elder abuse can take many forms, including:
In the United States, recent estimates suggest 1 in 10 persons age 60 or older experience one form of elder abuse/mistreatment each year, with some experiencing more than one form. Prior government estimates stated that at least 500,000 adults are abused each year in the United States through elder abuse – this is likely underestimated.
Elder abuse can take place anywhere – at home, in a nursing home, or hospital or senior center. It affects all seniors, regardless of race, gender, culture or socio-economic background.
The most at risk to be abused are isolated seniors and disabled persons who have little or no family or support network to notice when abuse might be taking place.
Women are more likely to be abused, as are individuals with dementia who may not recognize abuse or be able to report it.
“Older” seniors are also more at risk for elder abuse.
Elder abuse is most often committed by those closest to a vulnerable adult, including caregivers who are friends or family. It can also be committed by employees of nursing homes, hospitals and other care centers. It is committed by both men and women.
There are several warning signs of elder abuse. These include:
If you suspect an individual is in immediate danger, or feel you are in danger, you should seek immediate help from your local law enforcement.
If abuse is suspected, you should contact Adult Protective Services to report your concerns and they will open a case. You do not need to be completely certain that abuse is taking place in order to make a report – all that is required is suspicion that there may be abuse taking place. Reporting is confidential, and as long as a report is made “in good faith,” the reporter is free from any liability.
A doctor or regular healthcare provider can also help by examining a person and providing guidance on a plan of care.
Individuals in Cuyahoga County can call the Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services hotline to report suspected abuse, at 1.216.420.6700. Get online information at https://dsas.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/adult-protective-services.aspx
All states have elder abuse assistance available. Visit the national Eldercare Locator website at eldercare.gov or call 1.800.677.1116 for resources in your area.
When you call to report suspected abuse, your state’s Adult Protective Services department will evaluate your information and assign a caseworker to begin an investigation. This should happen within 24 hours. He or she will then determine the appropriate steps to take, which can range from removing the individual from his or her location, pressing criminal charges, and working with community agencies to obtain any social and health services that the older person needs.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 06/11/2019