What is Elder Abuse?

Midnight Sun Home Care is dedicated to providing the safest and most comfortable care to our elder clients. This involves addressing the very real threat of elder abuse.  This month’s blog posts will focus on helping elders and their loved ones to recognize, prevent and end elder abuse. 

Did you know that as many as five million seniors are abused or neglected each year, in the United States? In Alaska alone, annual reports of elder abuse/neglect are in the thousands—and that is just what is reported.  

We know, this is not a fun topic to talk about (it’s more fun to talk about love!). But, we all know that not talking about these things does not make them go away, and in fact, it can make them worse.   So, let’s start by talking about what elder abuse is. 

Essentially, elder abuse is a human rights violation, but what does that really mean?

Elder abuse has many faces. It can be:

  • physical,
  • emotional,
  • sexual,
  • neglectful and,
  • financial.

The impacts of elder abuse are huge. Elders who are abused are:

  • twice as likely to be hospitalized,
  • four times as likely to be taken from the comfort of their homes and go into a facility and,
  • three times as likely to die.

The good news is, if you know what it is, you can more easily recognize the signs of it. 

At the base line, elder abuse is when people take advantage of elders. This happens particularly with those who are more physically or mentally frail or don’t think as clearly as they used to. It can happen in many ways, but it often involves intimidation, threats, theft and as we mentioned before, neglect.  

Let’s get a clearer picture of the faces of elder abuse:

Physical Abuse: This is intentional use of force against an elderly or disabled person that causes physical pain, injury or impairment. It’s not just hitting—it can involve drugging, restraining and confining.

Emotional Abuse: You’ve probably heard it before, "just because there are no bruises, doesn’t mean there isn’t abuse."  Emotional or psychological abuse is when someone speaks to, treats or threatens an elderly or disabled person in a way that causes them emotional pain or distress. This can take verbal and nonverbal form: 

  • Yelling
  • Humiliation or ridicule
  • Blaming or scapegoating
  • Ignoring
  • Isolating
  • Terrorizing/causing fear

Sexual Abuse: Any sexual contact with an elderly or disabled person without their informed consent, is sexual abuse. It’s not just physical sexual acts. It’s also anything sexual in nature, including showing pornographic materials, forcing someone to watch sexual acts or forcing them to undress (even without any contact).

Neglect: An elderly or disabled person who cannot perform the duties required to care for themselves is very vulnerable to neglect.  Failing to completely fulfill caregiving obligations is neglect and it accounts for over half of the reported cases of elder abuse. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional (based on factors like ignorance or denial that the person needs that level of care). That is why it is so very important to hire well-trained, compassionate caregivers, with a thorough understanding of and commitment to their responsibilities. And it’s also important to get training if you are a loved one providing care. 

Financial Abuse or Exploitation: This is simply unauthorized use of an elderly or disabled person’s property or funds. This happens with caregivers and with people from the outside who make a point to prey on the vulnerable. Sometimes it’s straightforward and sometimes it’s not:

  • Misuse of an elder’s checks, accounts, credit and debit cards
  • Theft of cash, checks and valuables or household goods
  • Forgery of the elder’s signature
  • Identity theft
  • Prize awards that require payment to receive them
  • Phony charities
  • Investment fraud

Now that you have an idea of the range of abuse that can be inflicted on elders and the disabled, we can talk about how to recognize those things and address them. Stay tuned for our upcoming posts.



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