Elder Abuse: Protecting Our Senior Citizens

Unfortunately, for too many of our elders, the golden years do not have their promised luster because of abuse, neglect and exploitation at the hands of caregivers, relatives and others. Those with loved ones, neighbors and friends of advanced age need to educate themselves about elder abuse in order to be able to prevent it, detect it and put a stop to it.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, accurate statistics are difficult to obtain because abuse of seniors is largely underreported. NCEA says that for every reported case, probably about another five go unreported.

Abuse often happens in an institutional setting like a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Another common setting for elder abuse is in the person's own home at the hands of a partner, spouse or other family member, or in the home of a relative where the senior might be living.

Unfortunately, sometimes caregivers are overwhelmed by responsibility, fatigue and stress, and caring for a senior with serious physical or mental challenges related to aging can lead to harm and neglect. While this is not an excuse, intervention in a situation where a caregiver shows signs of serious stress may prevent abuse from happening.

Elder abuse falls into several categories:

  • Emotional: May be from verbal abuse, humiliation, belittling, isolation or threats
  • Physical: Deliberate forceful or painful contact often causing personal injury
  • Sexual: Nonconsensual intimate contact or unwelcome exposure to things of a sexual nature
  • Neglectful: Negligent or deliberate caretaker failure to provide for basic needs
  • Financial: Misappropriating an elder's money or assets or tricking an elder into paying for something fraudulently

If you suspect or notice signs of elder abuse, report it to the authorities and see that the targeted senior gets medical attention, a safe place to live and psychological support. In addition, if you are a senior citizen and are being victimized, or if a loved one has been abused by another person, discuss the situation with an experienced elder law attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies.