What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories:
- Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
- Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
- Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
- Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
- Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person's funds, property, or resources.
- Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities. Self-neglect is failure to provide for one's own essential needs.
How big a problem is it?
Although estimates vary, it is generally believed that 4-6% of the elderly are abused.
According to the National Incidence Study on Elder Abuse, approximately 450,000 elderly experienced abuse in 1996 nationwide. If self-neglect is included, the number is 551,000.
How serious a problem is it?
The personal losses associated with abuse can be devastating and include the loss of independence, homes, life savings, health, dignity, and security.
Victims of abuse have been shown to have shorter expectancies than non-abused older people.
How can I learn more?
- Comijs, H.C., Pot, A.M., Smit, H.H., & Jonker, C., (1998). "Elder abuse in the community: Prevalence and consequences. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 46, 885-888.
- Kivela, S.L., Kongas-Saviaro, P., Kesti, E., Pahkala, K. & Ijas, M. L. (1992). "Abuse in old age: Epidemiological data from Finland. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 4(3), 1-18.
- Lachs M.S., et al.(1998). The mortality of elder mistreatment. Journal of the American Medical Association,280, 428-432.
- National Center on Elder Abuse (1998). National elder abuse incidence study: Final report. Washington, DC: American Public Human Services Association in collaboration with Westat, Inc. Download the study.
- Pillemer K., & Finkelhor D.(1988). The prevalence of elder abuse: A random sample survey. Gerontologist, 28, 51-57.
- Podnieks, E., Pillemer, K., Nicholson, J., Shillington, T. & Frizzel, A. (1990). National survey on abuse of the elderly in Canada: Final report. Toronto: Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.