Elder Abuse

Perpetrators of Elder Abuse Are Usually Family Members

August 18, 2016 | by the National Care Planning Council

Many elderly rely entirely on family or other trusted individuals to help them. Whether it is physiological or psychological, as people grow older they tend to need guidance and support. Unfortunately, the dependence upon caregivers or family members makes an older person more vulnerable to abuse.

One in ten Americans (age 60+) are suffering from some form of abuse. Worse yet, one study estimates that only one in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. Many believe institutions for care, like assisted living and nursing homes, commit the most abuse. This is not so. 90 percent of elder abuse cases are perpetrated by family members.

A typical elder abuse story might go something like this:

An aging widow, relying on her children to provide meals, transportation, and to make financial decisions, finds it difficult to report abuse when one of her children takes advantage of her. The child takes her money, hits her and is neglectful in caregiving. Furthermore, the widow is threatened with loss of support from the child if the she complains.

Common classifications of adult abuse

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse, stealing money or changing title on assets. A MetLife study found that seniors lose at least $2.9 billion annually to financial exploitation. Over half of financial abuse in the United States is committed by family members, caregivers and friends.
  • Active and passive neglect by caregivers -- "Active neglect is the willful failure by a caregiver to fulfill care-taking functions and responsibilities. This includes, but is not limited to, abandonment, deprivation of food, water, heat, cleanliness, eyeglasses, dentures, or health-related services. Passive neglect is the non-willful failure to fulfill care-taking responsibilities because of inadequate caregiver knowledge, infirmity, or disputing the value of prescribed services."
  • Self-Neglect, which means an individual is failing to care for his or her own self needs.

What can you do to help prevent abuse

  1. Watch for warning signs that might indicate elder abuse,
  2. Take a look at the elder's medications,
  3. Watch for possible financial abuse,
  4. Call and visit as often as you can,
  5. Ask questions about health, happiness, and safety,
  6. Offer to stay with the elder so the caregiver can have a break—on a regular basis, if possible.

Report the abuse

All states have agencies that receive complaints of abuse. In many states, failure to report abuse of the elderly is a crime. Anyone who suspects that an older adult is being mistreated should contact a local Adult Protective Services office, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or police. The Elder abuse hot line phone number is (800) 677-1116.

Join our Council

Join the NCPCSeniors and caregivers search online everyday for eldercare services and frequently find Each month, we provide online resources to over 40,000 unique visitors. Our site also offers a place for professionals to offer assistance to the public.

Senior Services
from our Members

Long Term CareThe NCPC is dedicated to helping families deal with issues and challenges seniors face. We offer free help locating eldercare and senior services in your area. Some of these services include Care Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Funeral Planning, Home Care, Medicaid Planning, Placement, Reverse Mortgage, and Veterans Benefits.

BOOK: "How to Apply for VA Benefits for Recent and Senior Veterans and Their Survivors"

How to Apply for Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits for Veterans and Their SurvivorsThis 2024 edition is a tremendous resource for veterans, their families, and those who assist veterans. There is no other book available that incorporates VA's newest claims procedures with detailed instructions on submitting applications for 25 different types of disability claims including Pension, Aid & Attendance, DIC, Compensation, Burial Benefits, and more.

BOOK: "How to Deal with 21 Critical Issues Facing Aging Seniors"

How to Deal with 21 Critical Issues Facing Aging SeniorsAging seniors and their families are often confounded by the complexity of issues they face (including declining income, increased debt, poor investment returns, declining health, medical crises, complex insurance programs, long term care challenges, etc...). This book (published in 2014) takes a comprehensive approach to address these challenges and provide solutions.

BOOK: "How to Protect Your Family's Assets from Devastating Nursing Home Costs: Medicaid Secrets"

How to Protect Your Family's Assets from Devastating Nursing Home Costs: Medicaid SecretsThis book, written by attorney Gabriel Heiser in 2024, is a financial and legal guide to the ins and outs of the only government program that will pay for the long term nursing home care of your family member: MEDICAID.

National Care Planning Council