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Recognizing and Speaking Out About Elder Abuse

Published: January 15, 2024

Everyone should be treated with kindness, regard, and care, especially our elders. However, elder abuse is more common than you might think. Hundreds of thousands of adults over sixty are neglected, battered, and financially exploited every year–whether in their own homes or nursing facilities. The CDC reports that elder abuse is experienced by about 1 in 10 people aged 60 and older who live at home. By recognizing elder abuse and reporting the issue we can help curtail neglect and abuse of our elders.

According to the CDC: “Elder abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. An older adult is someone aged 60 or older. The abuse occurs at the hands of a caregiver or a person the elder trusts.”

Recognize Elder Abuse

There are different types of elder abuse which include financial exploitation; physical, emotional, or sexual harm; neglect of their welfare by people who are responsible for their care; and self-neglect. Abuse, neglect, and exploitation can happen in a nursing home or the elder’s own home. It can be committed by a stranger, a family member, a hired caregiver, or the elders themselves. For more information about elder abuse definitions please see Elder Abuse Surveillance in which elder abuse will be assessed in more detail.

Be aware of the warning signs of abuse, which can include bruises or broken bones; sudden changes in financial situations; depression or withdrawal; wandering; malnutrition; eviction; and frequent arguments or threats with a caregiver. For more specific examples, visit “Types and signs of elder abuse” at

Reduce Elder Abuse

Elder abuse has many causes, such as understaffing at nursing homes, caregiver burnout, and criminal intentions to take advantage of those who are frail and vulnerable. There are many things you can do to prevent the victimization of our elders. Front Porch, a nonprofit organization that specializes in senior living communities and programs, provides a list of “12 Things Everyone Can Do to Prevent Elder Abuse.”

Suspected Elder Abuse or Fraud

If you suspect that an older adult is being mistreated you should contact your local Adult Protective Services office, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or police. If an older adult is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call 911. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) describes various scenarios and ways to get help, and more information is available from the Eldercare Locator online or by calling (800) 677-1116.

If you suspect financial fraud or scams, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission; National Elder Fraud Hotline; or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Other reporting agencies can be found at

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. Launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, WEAAD was created to “provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.”

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