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  • Priscilla Myles, MPH

The Silent Problem: Elder Abuse

According to the National Council on Aging, "Elder abuse is a silent problem that robs seniors of their dignity, security, and—in some cases—costs them their lives. Up to 5 million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion."

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Perpetrators include children, other family members, and spouses—as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.


Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation.Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons.Passive neglect is a caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.Willful deprivation means denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or other physical assistance, and exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm—except when the older, competent adult has expressed a desire to go without such care.Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another.



Learn more about the types of abuse from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).

Suspect Abuse?

Find your state’s Adult Protective Services or contact the Eldercare Locator online or at 1-800-677-1116. If someone is in immediate danger, please call 911 or the local police for help.

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