Elder abuse is a serious issue that requires increased awareness, prevention, and support for senior citizens.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is defined as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, which occurs within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.1
- Roughly 1 in 6 people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse in a community setting within the past year.1
- Abuse of older adults is predicted to increase as the U.S. is experiencing an aging population.
- The global population of older adults aged 60 years and over will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to 2 billion in 2050.1
- Financial abuse happens when money or belongings are misused or stolen from an older adult. This can include forging checks, taking someone's Social Security or retirement benefits, using someone's credit cards and bank accounts without their permission, or withholding access to money or financial information. Financial abuse can also include changing names on a will, life insurance policy, bank account, or title, without permission. Financial abuse can be broken down into2:
- Financial neglect - Ignoring or avoiding an older adult's financial responsibilities, such as paying rent, utilities, or medical expenses.
- Financial exploitation -The most common form of financial elder abuse.
- Health care fraud - Includes intentionally overcharging, double billing, charging for care that was not provided, or falsifying Medicaid/Medicare claims.
Elder Abuse Red Flag
An older adult shows confusion, lack of awareness, or fear.3
More Red Flags
We can all help to identify and report elder abuse when we see it occurring. Below are some elder abuse red flags:
The older adult becomes withdrawn or acts agitated.2
An adult who has been abused may show signs of trauma, such as rocking back and forth, unexplained bruises, scars, or cuts.2
An adult may have a messy appearance, such as unwashed hair, poor hygiene, or dirty clothes.2
Addressing financial abuse specifically, an older adult may have sudden and unexpected financial losses or unpaid bills despite having adequate monetary resources.2
A new "best friend" goes along with an older adult to the bank.3
Multiple checks written with "loan" or "gift" in the memo.3
An online romantic interest who has never met the older adult in person begins requesting money or gift cards be sent to them. 4
"Abuse of Older People." World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 13 June 2022, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abuse-of-older-people.
"Elder Abuse." National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 21 July 2023, www.nia.nih.gov/health/elder-abuse#signs.
"Safe Banking for Seniors." ABA Foundation.
"U.S. Attorney Young Calls Attention to Elder Fraud Scams and Available Government Resources." US Attorney's Office, 4 October 2022, https://www.justice.gov/usao-nh/pr/us-attorney-young-calls-attention-elder-fraud-scams-and-available-government-resources