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What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is one of the most sinister, widespread evils visited upon our fellow citizens; few of us ever speak of it or even seem to be aware of its existence. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 10% of all Americans over age 60 have experienced elder abuse, and even more claim to have been witness to such abuse. POC elders, LGBTQ elders, and elderly women suffer worse statistically than white cishet older men.

Elder abuse is the mistreatment – either purposefully or neglectfully – of elderly adults. Typically, this type of disgusting behavior is seen in nursing home facilities with poor hiring practices or who are woefully underpaid and understaffed. However, it can also happen within the confines of the elder’s home.

There are several warning signs of elder abuse to look for. If you believe your elderly loved one has suffered from abuse, you must remove them from the dangerous situation and help them get the care they need. With them safe, you may pursue an investigation and legal action by contacting elder law attorneys to represent your case.

What Are the Seven Most Commonly Recognized Types of Elder Abuse?

There are several more ways to harm or neglect a human being, but seven commonly seen types of elder abuse exist. We will go over them and their warning signs today.

Physical Abuse

The use of physical force to harm, intimidate, maim, impair, or seriously injure an elderly individual. Often, our elders entrust their lives to those much stronger than themselves. That trust can be violated in truly heinous ways.

Physical abuse can include acts such as:

  • Burning.
  • Cutting.
  • Drugging inappropriately.
  • Force-feeding.
  • Kicking.
  • Pinching.
  • Punching.
  • Pushing and shoving.
  • Restraining against another person’s will.
  • Shaking.
  • Slapping.
  • Striking an individual with a foreign object.

Signs of physical abuse include noticing bruises, unexplained broken bones, cuts, sprains, and other injuries.

Sexual Abuse

Any non-consensual sexual act between one person and an elderly individual may be considered sexual abuse. It is sexual assault or harassment to make sexual contact with another individual who is incapable of providing consent or fighting back.

Examples of sexual abuse include:

  • Coerced nudity.
  • Rape.
  • Sexual battery.
  • Sexually explicit photography without consent.
  • Sodomy and molestation.
  • Unwanted touching.

Sexual abuse warning signs include emotional trauma, the onset of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and bruising or bleeding near private parts.

Though women are especially susceptible to elder sexual abuse, men are victims, too.

Financial Abuse

Not all elder abuse requires physical contact. Financial abuse can ruin an elderly person’s finances or the finances of their family caretakers. Financial abuse is, at its core, the unauthorized seizure or use of the elder’s funds.

Examples of elder financial abuse include the following:

  • Cashing a personal check without permission.
  • Cashing a pension check without permission.
  • Deceiving the elderly into signing documents that they would not normally have signed.
  • Forging signatures to seize financial assets.
  • Improper use of conservatorship, power of attorney, or guardianship.
  • Misusing an older person’s money.
  • Stealing an older person’s possessions and selling them.

Warning signs for financial abuse include missing prized possessions or unexplained drained finances.

Emotional Abuse and Isolation

Elder psychological abuse is the infliction of mental anguish and emotional distress on an older individual. This can be achieved verbally, silently, and with physical motion or without. It may be difficult to prove emotional abuse situations, but these types of situations are among the most sinister because they may make a person feel unsafe by creating an atmosphere of dread.

Examples of psychological abuse include the following:

  • Constant harassment.
  • Humiliation and infliction of shame.
  • Infantilizing.
  • Ignored.
  • Insults.
  • Intimidation.
  • Screamed at.
  • Verbal assaults.

Warning signs include an apparent fear of elder facility caregivers, social isolation, anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Elderly women are especially vulnerable to emotional abuse. A recent study suggested that nearly 95% of all women in nursing homes experienced psychological abuse at some point.


If a caregiver is expected to perform specific duties to tend to older adults’ needs and do not fulfill those obligations, they may be neglecting their ward. Neglect may not always be purposeful, but that matters little when it deeply harms another person.

Examples of neglect include:

  • Dehydrating an old person by not giving them water.
  • Forgetting important medicine.
  • Neglecting personal safety, shelter, or clothing.
  • Not paying for nursing homes or at-home care services.
  • Not washing or cleaning an older person.
  • Refusing to feed an elderly person.

This is the most common type of elder abuse. Warning signs include bedsores, starvation, new health issues, and malnutrition.


Self-neglect occurs when older people cannot properly care for themselves. This is common in individuals who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. While it may be true that a caregiver did not cause the neglect, they are nonetheless entrusted with the elder’s care and must be watchful for their known issues.


The desertion of an older person can be considered abandonment if the person who left them alone was entrusted with their care. Cases where elderly nursing home residents are found wandering the streets, are often examples of elder abandonment.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Experienced Elder Abuse Attorneys in Your Area Today

If you suspect your elderly loved one has been a victim of elder abuse – either in a nursing home facility or under the care of a family member – you must investigate, verify, and ensure the elder’s safety.

Contact the law offices of O’Malley Tunstall to begin that process today. (919) 277-0150.