What is elder abuse?

Bonnie Lynn Wright, PhD
Geriatrics Nursing

Elder citizens suffer the same abuses as the rest of the population; physical, mental or emotional, sexual, verbal, or economic. The definition for the abuse does not change, the age of the person abused changes.

Elder abuse is equally as deplorable as child abuse because they are a population that to some extent are helpless to protect themselves due to illness, isolation or dependence on others. Family members, neighbors and the general public need to be alert to elder abuse. Often the elder will be unable or unwilling to tell.

America is getting older fast.

In 2000, there were some 35 million people older than 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure is about to jump a wave of the oldest of the 76 million baby boomers hits 65.

Like anything else, an increase in population comes with an increase in opportunities for abuse. The more senior citizens there are, the more abused senior citizens there will be. Nearly one in 15 senior citizens-or 2 million seniors-were the victims of elder abuse. And those are just the cases that were reported. The reality is very likely much worse, with nearly one in three seniors facing elder abuse, according to the APA.

The stereotype is of a frail senior citizen becoming the victim of elder abuse at a heartless, soulless, dirty nursing home, where they wither away from neglect, covered in bed sores.

But, more often than not, the real culprit is a family member. A spouse perhaps. Or a child.

What is elder abuse?

Sometimes it is when a senior citizen is intentionally harmed.

Sometimes they are merely neglected.

Their frail physical and mental states can also make them targets for evil doers.

And sometimes, there may be no ill intent, but the caregiver is just unable to cope with the demands of taking care of a senior citizen.

Continue Learning about Senior's Emotional Health

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.