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Personal Injury

7 Most Common Types of Elder Abuse (And What to Do)

By October 8, 2020February 2nd, 2024No Comments
types of elder abuse

In America, 1 in 10 elders has experienced some type of abuse. Although elderly abuse is more common than people think, many people don’t know how to recognize the warning signs. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it’s essential to know the types of elder abuse and how to understand the warning signs. Read on to learn how you can recognize and stop this problem.

Don’t want to read the full blog? Watch the video.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse happens when someone intentionally causes an elderly person harm or puts them at risk of injury. There are many different types of abuse, such as sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial abuse.

Every year hundreds of thousands of elders are abused. Abuse can come from anyone, including children, nursing home staff, spouses, and family members.

About two-thirds of abusers are spouses and children, and about 60%  of the abusers are close family members.

What Makes Them Vulnerable to Abuse?

Elders who suffer from any physical or mental disability are more at risk of abuse. Research shows that about half of all elders who have dementia are victims of neglect and or abuse.

In nursing homes, elders who are isolated from friends and family are more vulnerable to abuse. Abusers know they are alone and not frequently visited, making them targets for abuse since they know the chances of being reported or caught are low.

Elder abuse doesn’t only happen in nursing homes. Family members or nonprofessional caregivers can cause it, too.

Having to care for an elder with a physical or mental disability can be difficult and stressful. If the caregiver doesn’t have the patience or doesn’t deal with stress well, they are more susceptible to cause abuse. They may lash out and cause the elderly person harm.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, it is more likely for elderly women to suffer from abuse than men.

Types Of Elder Abuse

Being well informed of the different types of abuse can help prevent and save a friend or loved one. Abuse isn’t just physical injuries — it can also be emotional.

Elders can suffer from sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, and even self-neglect.

Sexual Abuse

Elders who have dementia or any other mental or physical illness are more vulnerable to sexual abuse. Elderly women are more susceptible to sexual abuse, but men can get sexually abused, too.

Sexual abuse can be any form of non-consensual sexual contact. Any unwanted touching, taking of explicit pictures, forcing the elder to undress, molestation, and rape, is a form of sexual abuse.

Not reporting sexual abuse is very common due to the fear of retaliation.

The attacker might threaten to cause them more harm if they say anything about the incident. Many elderly people think nobody will believe them, making it the least reported type of abuse.

Financial Abuse

Elderly financial abuse is when a person takes unauthorized funds from an elder. Some examples are cashing their pension or any other checks without their consent, tricking them into signing any documents, and forging their signatures.

Stealing their identity is also a form of financial abuse. The abuser can even trick them into signing over the deed to any property they may own.

Physical Abuse

Any intentional force that causes physical pain, injury, or impairment is considered physical abuse. Most elders are fragile and can be easily overpowered long enough for people to cause them harm.

Some examples of physical abuse are pinching, burning, slapping, punching, shoving, and shaking.

Another type of abuse is holding them against their will and force-feeding or using drugs on them.


When a legal guardian or designated caretaker leaves an elder to take care of him or herself without being capable of doing so, it is considered abandonment.

Sometimes, elders are incapable of doing basic tasks; for example, they cannot bathe themselves or feed themselves due to a physical condition or mental illness.

They need someone to take care of themselves, but sometimes they are victims of abandonment.

Another example of abandonment is when a caretaker leaves the victim in a store or a location they don’t know their way around or are incapable of getting back home without assistance.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional elder abuse is when a person causes an elder emotional distress, pain, anguish, or anxiety.

Some examples are verbal assault, humiliation, threats, intimidation, treating them like children, insults, and harassment. This form of abuse is psychological.

Another form of emotional abuse is when a caretaker ignores the elder or isolates them from friends or family, intending to cause them feelings of loneliness.


Failing to take care of an elder or not being able to do their obligations is considered neglect.

Neglect can be intentional or unintentional, but it is the caretaker’s responsibility to find a person to care for the elder if they are unable to do it themselves.

The most common type of elder abuse is neglect. Some examples of neglect are not giving them their medicine, protecting them from danger, not providing food or water, and not taking care of their hygiene if they are unable to do so themselves.


Self-neglect is the only type of abuse that does not involve another person. It is when an elder is competent to care for themselves and chooses not to do so.

Usually, self-neglect is when an elder threatens his or her own life. They could refuse to eat or drink water or take their medications. They can also put themselves in dangerous situations.

According to a study, elder self-neglect is very harmful to one’s health, and it can be life-threatening. It is known to increase the chances of premature death.

Warning Signs

It is crucial to know the warning signs of all types of elder abuse, especially if you or a loved one have an elderly family member. Knowing these warning signs could save their lives.

Sexual Abuse

  • Stained or torn clothing
  • Bruises around genitals or breasts
  • Vaginal bleeding or anal bleeding
  • Signs of depression
  • Unexplained STDs

Financial Abuse

  • Unexplainable transactions
  • A large amount of money missing
  • Items missing
  • Suspicious changes in titles, wills, bank accounts
  • Changes in their financial situation

Physical Abuse

  • Sprains, broken bones or dislocations
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Any sign of being restrained, for example, rope marks of wrists or feet
  • Unexplained injuries such as bruises, burn marks, cuts, and scars
  • Any report of a drug overdose


  • Poor hygiene
  • Malnourishment or dehydration
  • Signs of depression
  • Looking lost or scared or lonely

Emotional abuse

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Being depressed or withdrawn
  • Attempting to hurt themselves or others
  • Looking scared or disturbed
  • Not eating or sleeping
  • Talking slower or less than usual


  • Rashes or bedsores
  • Lack of clean clothing or bedding
  • Poor hygiene
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Medical problems
  • Untreated injuries
  • Hunger


  • Unusual weight loss
  • Untreated physical problems
  • Unsafe living conditions such as no heat or no running water
  • Unsanitary living conditions such as soiled bedding or clothes, dirt, or bugs
  • Confusion
  • Signs of depression

How to Prevent Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a common yet heartbreaking thing. Knowing the warning signs of abuse can help prevent and stop any abuse.

Another thing that helps prevent elder abuse is listening to your loved ones. Make them feel safe and comfortable talking to you. Make sure they are taking care of themselves properly if they can’t do so on their own.

The healthier they are, the less likely they are to be pressured by anyone who wants to cause them harm. Also, staying in touch will helps elders feel less lonely. Isolation increases the chances of abuse.

If you have a sick, elderly family member, check that their medication is correct. It is also good to check their bank and credit cards often to make sure there is no suspicious activity.

What to Do If You Suspect Abuse Is Happening?

If you suspect or see any signs of abuse, you need to take action immediately. It would be best if you have a conversation with the senior you suspect is experiencing abuse.

There is a chance of them feeling afraid or embarrassed. Assure them that they are safe, and you are trying to help. In some cases, the elder may deny the situation. It is more likely for them to deny the situation if the abuser is a family member or close to the family.

If the elder denies it, you should still file a report to the authorities to investigate the situation. If you feel that they are in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1 immediately.

It is Time to Prevent Elder Abuse

As you can see, there are many different common types of elder abuse, aside from physical harm.

Although many people believe elder abuse only happens in nursing homes, it often happens under their own roof. Because senior citizens are a vulnerable population, they can easily be manipulated by those they trust.

If you’re worried about a loved one, you should stay alert and recognize the signs.

Do you suspect a loved one is a victim of elder abuse? Contact us today for a consultation.