Most physical wounds heal in time. But elder abuse can cause harm to physical and psychological health, destroy social and family ties, lead to devastating financial loss, and more. Any type of mistreatment can leave the abused person feeling fearful and depressed. Sometimes, the victim thinks the abuse is his or her fault.
The most common forms of elder abuse
Physical abuse happens when someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing, or slapping. This may also include restraining an older adult against their will, such as locking them in a room or tying them to furniture.
Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older adult. Keeping that person from seeing close friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.
Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older adult's needs. This may include physical, emotional, and social needs, or withholding food, medications, or access to health care.
Abandonment is leaving an older adult who needs help alone without planning for his or her care.
Sexual abuse involves a caregiver forcing an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.
Financial abuse happens when money or belongings are stolen from an older adult. It can include forging checks, taking someone else's retirement or Social Security benefits, or using a person's credit cards and bank accounts without their permission. It also includes changing names on a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or title to a house without permission.
Recognizing the signs of elder abuse.
Most states require that doctors, lawyers and professional caregivers report elder mistreatment. Family and friends can also report it. Do not wait. Help is available.
The Administration for Community Living has a National Center on Elder Abuse where you can learn about how to report abuse, where to get help, and state laws that deal with abuse and neglect. Go to https://ncea.acl.gov for more information.
If you think someone is in urgent danger, call 911 or your local police to get help right away.