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How common is elder abuse by family members?

Bonnie Lynn Wright, PhD
Geriatrics Nursing

First of all, we do not definitively know how often elder abuse occurs because as with abuse in all age groups, it is underreported. As well, there are differences in definition. What one person would report as abuse, another would see as something else and report it as such. For example if an elder appeared to be noticeably losing weight, one person might say that s/he was abused because there were few groceries in the house. Another person might say it was simply due to aging and loss of taste acuity or appetite. 

However, when elder abuse is reported as such, it is by far more often a family member than a stranger that is the perpetrator. That makes sense statistically because it is more likely family in the role of care giver or support person than anyone else unless the elder is in a home. That family member can abuse the elder by actively doing something inappropriate (stealing, hitting, etc.) or by not doing the things they should do to care for the elder such as not buying groceries, giving medications, etc. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.