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Home > Common Concerns > Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse

Everyone Deserves Respect and Kindness

Every year, more than half a million incidences of elder abuse are reported in America alone. Authorities estimate that several more million go unreported. Shame and fear of repercussions and abandonment keep many seniors from speaking out. Awareness has begun to grow, shedding light on some of the misconceptions of this complex problem. Abuse can be extreme, but is often subtle and difficult to identify. Surprisingly, the majority of abuse doesn't occur in long-term care facilities, but in the home - and often involves paid caregivers, family caregivers, and/or other family members including children, grandchildren, or spouses.

Abuse Comes in Many Forms

  • Physical - Any violent assault such as hitting or pushing, as well as improper use of restraints or medication.
  • Emotional or Psychological - Hostility, threats, manipulation, and isolation are common ways of causing mental anguish.
  • Financial - Misuse of a senior's finances or coercion for personal gain.
  • Neglect - Neglect is the failure to meet an individual's basic needs, whether they are physical, emotional, or financial.
  • Sexual - Any non-consensual sexual act or behavior.

Who's at Risk?

The risk for abusive behavior increases:

If the caregiver:

  • Abuses alcohol or drugs.
  • Suffers from depression.
  • Lacks resilience.
  • Feels taken advantage of.
  • Lacks resources, training, and/or respite.

If the elder:

  • Is isolated with the caregiver most of the time.
  • Was once an abusive parent or spouse.
  • Comes from a violent home.
  • Is verbally or physically aggressive.
  • Suffers from extreme dementia or other illness.

A Plan for Prevention

The best plan for any caregiver is to take good care of yourself. This is true, whether you think you may be at risk for abusive behavior or are positive you could never be. No matter how good your intentions, you've entered into a challenging situation that will stretch you and push you in a myriad of ways. If you haven't been into serious self care, here's how you start:

  • Get respite care. Every caregiver needs a break.
  • Stay healthy. Take care of your own medical needs.
  • Manage stress. Breathe. Take a bubble bath. Listen to music. Walk.
  • Talk to a friend. Have some fun.
  • Whether it's Bungee jumping or playing Scrabble, whatever works.

If You've Crossed the Line, or Think You Could...

The demands of caregiving for elders push many well-meaning caregivers beyond their limits. If you realize you have or could become abusive, or if you suspect someone else is abusing your aging loved one, get help immediately. Call a therapist or elder abuse hotline for assistance.