Ten percent of adults 65 and older experience elder abuse each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Elder abuse happens when a caregiver or another trusted individual causes physical, mental, or financial harm to an older adult by an act or omission

Types of Elder Abuse

Abuse of an elder may encompass financial exploitation, caregiver neglect, mental abuse, and physical or sexual mistreatment. An individual may experience multiple forms of abuse at once. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that abuse adversely affects the lives of older people, resulting in physical injuries, mental health issues, financial hardship, cognitive decline, and early death.

Financial Abuse

Of the 10 percent of older adults who experience abuse, roughly half are victims of financial abuse, per the DOJ. Financial abuse occurs when a person takes or misuses a person’s assets.

In many cases, the abuser is someone the older adult trusts or expects to act in their best interest, such as a family member or fiduciary. Individuals often rely on others to help manage their finances as they age. Those with health conditions such as dementia that affect personal decision-making and financial planning are particularly at risk. Financial abusers may exploit an older adult’s trust in them or misuse their authority as surrogate decision-makers for seniors.

Examples of elder financial abuse include the following:

In a recent example of alleged financial abuse, the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sued trustees of a fund set up by her husband, according to NBC News. The 90-year-old senator alleged that trustees committed financial abuse by refusing to give her the distributions to which she was entitled in an effort to preserve the amount her husband’s children would receive.

Caregiver Neglect

Neglect also affects approximately half of abused elders. The DOJ reports that caregiver neglect is the most highly underreported form of mistreatment.

Older adults residing in community settings and facilities often rely on others to help them with their basic needs. Caregivers help seniors with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, getting in and out of bed, managing meals, and taking medications.

When an individual fails to provide for the needs of an adult in their care, whether intentionally or through oversight, the adult in care can suffer dehydration, bed sores, depression, anxiety, worsening health, premature death. Caregivers in nursing homes and private residences can cause harm through negligence, such as dropping a resident when moving in and out of bed, administering the wrong medication, or failing to provide adequate nutrition.

Mental Abuse

Psychological abuse affects slightly less than half of elder abuse victims. This type of abuse is nonphysical, but it can have a severe impact, often co-occurring with other types of abuse, such as neglect and financial coercion. Caregivers and family members can perpetrate mental abuse.

The following exemplify mental abuse:

Physical and Sexual Abuse

While less prevalent than other types of abuse, physical and sexual abuse can have severe consequences.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) defines physical abuse as bodily harm. Physical abuse can include the following:

The NIA further explains that sexual abuse entails forcing an elder to engage in or watch sexual acts. Most sexual abuse occurs in nursing homes, according to NursingHomeAbuseGuide.org. Older women are six times more likely to experience sexual abuse than senior men.

Preventing Abuse

If you suspect that you or a loved one are facing elder abuse, the following resources can help.

You can also learn more about your legal rights by consulting with us or another elder law attorney.  If we can help, please call on us (913) 386.8135 (Leawood) or (913) 592.2029 (Spring Hill).  Consultations are always at no charge.