Types of Elder Abuse and How to Spot Them

The crime rate has increased exponentially over the past few years. Although the security agencies have been able to tackle much of the bigger crimes such as murder, rape, and robberies through advanced technology in security equipment, yet some domestic abuse crimes remain hidden from the agencies. If you notice any of the following elder abuses, report immediately to the authorities and make your contribution towards making a safe society as well as eliminating crime. 

What is Elder Abuse?

The concept of Elder Abuse means any kind of mistreatment to the elders or senior citizens. As per the definition by the World Health Organization, Elder Abuse is a single or a repeated act or lack of appropriate action that occurs in a relationship where there is the expectation of trust mainly with harm to any older person. Certain laws have also been made to counter the problem of Elder Abuse. 

If we explore this in more detail, it would relate as harm to an older person by someone who he knows already. This does not mean a family member necessarily rather any person that is in any kind of relationship with the elder person. For example, friends, neighbors, spouse, partner, or any other person. Elder Abuse is considered as one of the most important degrees of domestic violence under the family violence category.

Due to the increasing cases of Elder Abuse, it has been notified as a social issue on bigger platforms. Several organizations such as the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse have been made. Today, June 15 is considered World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Why is Elder Abuse not Spotted Easily?

The main reason why elder abuse is not spotted easily is because of the blackmail which could be either in the form of emotions or in the form of any other punishment that could be given to the elder. The fear of this blackmail is the main reason why elders are unable to speak conveniently. As a result of this, many elder abuse cases are still not reported in the way that they should be. 

Another reason why elder abuse is not reported is that there is a weak mental and emotional aspect in the elders. For example, they might not be able to show up their emotions because they are in a stage of life where they cannot conveniently open up. Others might be disabled and would not be able to explain what problem they are facing in their lives. Ultimately, elder abuse does not even get notified in the end because someone is not able to speak up. 

As per the experts, another main reason why elder abuse is not reported is that the claim of elders is not taken very seriously by those to whom they explained it. For example, if an elder father complains about the nurse for not giving proper care or any other issue, the son might not listen to it as he could think that since the father is ill or “moody”, he is just generally feeling it all. The problem of not addressing elder abuse is a bigger problem than elder abuse because it does not get identified.  

Care for elders.

Types of Elder Abuse and How to Spot Them

Although the definition provided above is sufficient to explain elder abuse, the concept has been divided into different types as well. This could be potentially helpful in identifying the issue as well as pressing any types of criminal charges. 

Physical Abuse

One of the most common abuses that has been rising from the past many years in many countries of the world is Physical Abuse. This includes hitting, punching, burning, kicking, forced confinement, pushing, or any other kind of physical harm being done to an elder. If an elder is not being given the right medication as they require, it also comes in the form of physical abuse. 

In case of physical abuse, the best way to spot it is to notice any kind of marks on the body which could be in the form of injuries, bruises, or scars as well. If you see these marks on someone, immediately be informed that there might be something wrong over here. Notice the behavior of the elder as well which could have changed over a p[eriod of time due to the physical abuse. In addition to that, restraint marks such as those that could occur due to the ropes or cuts should also be taken seriously else it could become a major problem in the future. 


Although physical abuse is considered the worst possible form of abuse, over the past few years, emotional abuse has taken a rise leading to an increased number of suicides and cases of self-neglect. Emotional abuse includes humiliating a person in any manner. The most common types of elder abuse include name-calling, extensive criticism, false accusations, excessive blaming, and withdrawing any affectionate actions. Ignoring and silent treatment are also a form of emotional abuse to elders.

Emotional abuse is one of the most underreported abuses because elders compromise on it more than they do in a case of physical abuse. In order to spot the emotional abuse, there should be a keen observation of the behavior of the person. For example, many elders start to face dementia or a condition similar to that if they undergo any emotional abuse. Rocking and mumbling are also common. Many elders turn silent when they are not given the right emotional support which they need. As a result, there is an increase in the unresponsiveness of the person. 

If an elder gets more fearful and starts to get scared of very little things, it could be due to emotional abuse. There are more mental problems expected out of a sufferer of emotional abuse. 

Elders might have a changed facial expression due to emotional abuse.

If you are an elder that is having any kind of stress due to the caregiver, here are a few tips that might be helpful – How to Deal with Caregiver Stress?

Financial / Rights Abuse

Financial and rights abuse are quite similar to each other. Financial abuse is when any kind of money is exploited by the elders. Financial abuse means when anyone indirectly takes over any of the financial sources of the elder by just declaring that the elder is not in a capacity to make any sound decisions. Financial abuse is also when money is paid to facilitate any kind of abuse to the elders. 

Financial abuse is common when the elder generally has a large sum of money that has to be transferred on to the heirs. Many close members believe that the control of financial assets should be taken from the elders as they might be incurring a failing financial condition. 

People close to the elder might deprive the elder of the basic needs which includes their rights. Rights abuse means denying any civil rights to a person that is mentally fit and fine. Over the past years, awareness for it has increased by many nations. 

To spot the financial or rights abuse, one should carefully observe the surroundings of the elder. The behavior of people close to the elder has to be monitored to see which person is actively pursuing the wealth and financial resources of the elder. Filial responsibility laws of the US, Germany, and France state that the failure to provide the right financial support to elders can lead to the pressing of criminal charges. 

Sexual Abuse

A common form of elder physical abuse is the sexual abuse being faced by the elders. Although relatively less common, it is still important to be identified in elders. Forcing an elder in any kind of sexual conduct by forcing them is a part of sexual abuse. Even the conversations which can be taken in the sexual context are a part of sexual abuse. 

Many NGOs are working to increase awareness against sexual abuse for youth and elders. Sexual abuse can be identified by the emotional distress in an elder. The most common signs of sexual abuse are silence and being very reserved. Although there can be other reasons for silence, sexual abuse can also be one of them. All forms of sexual abuse directed towards children or elders are illegal and punishable by law. 

It is our responsibility to ensure no sexual abuse occurs in the society

Other Elder Abuses

There are certain other elder abuses as well which should be considered. According to the US State Law, abandonment is also a form of elder abuse. This means that leaving an elder at any place where he or she is deserted and left to survive on their own. A potential risk of endangering the health of the elder is there. The only way to spot this is if you ever come across a single deserted person, do ask them if they require any help or inform the authorities to do so. 

In addition to that, Institutional abuse has also been increasing all over the US which is why it is considered as important. According to many recent studies, it was proven that about 2000 nursing residents reported an abuse rate of 44% and neglect rate of up to 95%. This means that 95% of elders are being deprived of many basic healthcare facilities and other rights. Institutional abuse is very difficult to trace but only with evidence from residents or first-person study and surveys could reveal the reality. 

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Elder age is considered a burden by many people which leads to elder abuse. The rising number of cases of elder abuse is certainly alarming and indicates that serious lawmaking and policy practices have to be ensured to save the adults from being repeatedly abused at the hands of those that are meant to care for them. The U.S. State Law is already working to improve the laws for elder abuse. If you ever see anybody around you, do not hesitate to report to the authorities as it will help in creating a better and improved society.