Elder Abuse Is a Serious Problem
Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected and exploited by family members and others. Many victims are people who are older, frail, and vulnerable and cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs.
Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws. Laws and definitions of terms vary considerably from one state to another, but all states have set up reporting systems. Generally, adult protective services (APS) agencies receive and investigate reports of suspected elder abuse.
The 1998 National Elder Abuse Incidence Study funded in part by AoA found the following:
- 551,011 persons, aged 60 and over, experienced abuse, neglect, and/or self-neglect in a one-year period;
- Almost four times as many new incidents of abuse, neglect, and/or self-neglect were not reported as those that were reported to and substantiated by adult protective services agencies;
- Persons, aged 80 years and older, suffered abuse and neglect two to three times their proportion of the older population; and
- Among known perpetrators of abuse and neglect, the perpetrator was a family member in 90 percent of cases. Two-thirds of the perpetrators were adult children or spouses.
Generally Accepted Definitions
Elder abuse is an umbrella term used to describe one or more of the following:
- Physical abuse is the willful infliction of physical pain or injury, e.g., slapping, bruising, sexually molesting, or restraining.
- Sexual abuse is the infliction of non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
- Emotional or psychological abuse is the infliction of mental or emotional anguish, e.g., humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
- Financial or material exploitation is the improper act or process of an individual, using the resources of an older person, without his/her consent, for someone else's benefit.
- Neglect is the failure of a caretaker to provide goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish or mental illness, e.g., abandonment, denial of food or health related services.
- Self-neglect is characterized as the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his/her own health or safety.
Reporting Elder Abuse
To report elder abuse, contact APS through your state's hotline. The APS agency screens calls for potential seriousness, and it keeps the information it receives confidential. If the agency decides the situation possibly violates state elder abuse laws, it assigns a caseworker to conduct an investigation (in cases of an emergency, usually within 24 hours). If the victim needs crisis intervention, services are available. If elder abuse is not substantiated, most APS agencies will work as necessary with other community agencies to obtain any social and health services that the older person needs.
The older person has the right to refuse services offered by APS. The APS agency provides services only if the senior agrees or has been declared incapacitated by the court and a guardian has been appointed. The APS agency only takes such action as a last resort.
NCEA provides elder abuse information to the public and to professionals; offers technical assistance and training to elder abuse agencies and related professionals; conducts short-term elder abuse research; and assists with elder abuse program and policy development. It manages an elder abuse list serve for professionals in the field, and it produces a monthly newsletter. NCEA's website contains many resources, including a list of the state elder abuse hotlines and information on publications, community coalitions, and upcoming conferences. You can contact NCEA in a number of ways:
Elder Abuse Resources:
National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) (Off Site)
Phone: (202) 898-2586
Fax: (202) 898-2583
Mail: c/o University of California – Irvine
Program in Geriatric Medicine
101 The City Drive South
Orange, CA 92868
Other Elder Abuse Resources:
- 1998 National Elder Abuse Incidence Study
- AoA Aging Internet Information Note: Elder Abuse and Neglect
Domestic Violence Resources
Frequently Asked Questions Violence Against Women (Off Site)
This fact sheet provides a definition of domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual assault and provides resources for help if you are a victim or know someone who is a victim of domestic violence.
HHS Fact Sheet: Access to HHS-funded Services for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence (Off Site)
The welfare reform law passed in 1996 created new requirements affecting access to federally funded programs for immigrants. One vulnerable population specifically addressed in the legislation is battered immigrants and their children. This Fact Sheet provides guidance about eligibility for all the various programs and services funded by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
HHS Fact Sheet: Preventing Violence Against Women (Off Site)
This publication is about government initiatives to prevent violence against women. Topics discussed include the Violence Against Women Act, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, and other government programs.
Domestic Violence - Federal Offices/Organizations
- Division of Violence Prevention, NCIPC, CDC, OPHS, HHS (Off Site)
- Violence Against Women Office, OJP, DOJ (Off Site)