Abuse is anything someone does or does not do that ends up harming someone else's health and well-being. The mistreatment can be physical, mental, or financial.
Every year millions of older adults are abused or neglected. It can happen to anyone anywhere. It can happen:
The abuse may be done on purpose or by mistake by someone caring for the older adult. It could be a family member, friend, or paid caregiver.
There are many kinds of abuse. More than one kind of abuse can happen at the same time.
Physical neglect is the type of abuse that happens most often. Neglect is when the caregiver does not give the older adult the things needed for his or her health. This may happen when the caregiver does not know what the person needs. The older adult may:
Physical abuse is anything someone does to cause pain, injury, or disease. Among other things, an older adult could be:
Emotional abuse causes stress or emotional harm. This can include:
Financial abuse is misuse of the older adult's money and property. The abuser may:
A violation of personal rights happens when older adults are not allowed to make their own decisions even though they are able to do so. This includes:
There are many reasons why abuse happens. Examples are stress, drugs, resentment, or past abuse.
A caregiver may be feeling stressed because he or she is tired, angry, or frustrated. Worries about money can cause stress. The caregiver may not be able to deal with his or her feelings. The abusive caregiver may use drugs or alcohol. He or she may be mentally ill.
The caregiver may feel resentful because she or he depends on the older adult for housing, money, or child care. The caregiver may also feel stuck in the role of taking care of the older adult.
Abuse may happen as part of a cycle of family violence. The abuser may have been hurt in childhood by the older adult or by someone else and in turn has become an abuser him or herself.
Older adults often do not report abuse. They may:
Sometimes abuse is not reported because doctors, nurses, and social workers do not know what to look for or because older adults may have no contact with people who might report it.
Everyone needs to be aware of the signs of abuse and help stop it.
Doctors or nurses may find signs of physical abuse, such as:
Signs of mental stress may include:
Neighbors may hear screaming, crying, or fighting in the older adult's home.
Friends and family members may notice:
If you think someone is being abused, get help right away. The situation for the older adult could get a lot worse if the abuse is not reported. It is better to be wrong than to have someone continue to suffer. If you are being abused or think that maybe someone else is being abused, call 1-800-677-1116 right away. The National Eldercare Locator hotline can help you find the right agency to report the situation.
You can also make a report to Adult Protective Services. Look in the community services pages of your telephone book for a number. You may also be able to get the number from the United Way, from Child Protective Services, or from a hospital or police department. You can make a difference and help stop the suffering of a neglected or abused older adult.