Elder abuse happens when an older individual is harmed or distressed in any way by a person they should reasonably expect to trust. It may include physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment, and exploitation. Family members, friends, caretakers, or other professionals may perpetrate the abuse. Whether it’s a one-time or repetitive occurrence, elder abuse is a serious violation of the dignity and human rights of the victimized person.

Who Is at Risk?

According to the National Association on Aging, as many as 1 in 10 Americans older than age 60 have been victims of elder abuse. New occurrences impact about five million people each year. Several risk factors can either suggest or increase the potential for elder abuse, such as:

Individual Risks

  • Mental illness
  • Current alcohol abuse
  • Hostile behavior
  • Poor coping skills
  • Poor caregiver preparation and training
  • Caregiving required at an early age
  • Abuse as a child

Relationship Factors

  • Financial dependence on the elderly person
  • History of disruptive behavior
  • Lack of social or other support

Community Limitations

  • Limited structural services for caretaker’s wellbeing
  • High level of caretaker autonomy to do their job

Societal Expectations

  • Family expected to care for elders without asking for help
  • Vulnerable older person expected to remain silent about their suffering

How You Can Protect Against Elder Abuse

Preventive actions can provide a margin of safety and buffer for vulnerable older adults. While these factors are not as well documented as the risk factors, they are also important to understand in the context of risk mitigation.

Building and maintaining good relationships with a variety of people can be a solid line of defense. Recognizing risk factors and suspicious behavior is essential. Within the larger community, it can be invaluable to stay current on elder abuse screening and helplines; caregiver support; and ongoing public education awareness efforts.

Senior Safe and Sound is focused on educating and protecting older individuals from abuse in all its forms. If you believe that you or an older loved one are being subjected to elder abuse, report it to the authorities immediately. For additional information and support, contact our professionals by email at info@SeniorSafeAndSound.org or call 858-480-7551 for a helpful conversation.

This information is intended to inform the public at large about this important issue. It is not intended to serve as legal or medical advice.