- Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
- Symptoms & Signs
- Diagnosis & Tests
- Prevention & Expectations
- Treatment & Monitoring
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an older person. It may occur while the person is living alone, with others, or in an institution.
There are four common types of elder abuse.
What are the causes and risks of the injury?
A study by the National Center for Elder Abuse found there were nearly 300,000 reports of domestic elder abuse in 1996. This was a 150% increase over the previous 10 years! Plus, the study noted that for each incident reported, as many as another 13 may have gone unreported.
Psychological, social, and economic factors all contribute to elder abuse. One or more of these issues may trigger it:
The typical victim of elder abuse is a widowed, white woman. In her mid-70s or older, she lives on a fixed income. However, it's vital to note that victims do not have to fit the typical picture. Elder abuse happens in all ethnic groups, races, and economic groups.
The abuser is often a spouse or adult child. Two-thirds of abusers are family members, most of them serving in the caregiving role. Often, the victim does not report the abuse. He or she may:
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?
Elder abuse takes many forms. It may leave visible injuries, such as cuts and bruises, or less visible emotional scars. Signs and symptoms of mistreatment vary with the type of abuse.
With physical abuse, a person may have:
Other changes one might see with physical abuse include:
With emotional abuse, a person may:
With financial abuse, there may be:
With neglect, a person may:
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the injury recognized?
The signs listed above often point to elder abuse.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the injury?
Campaigns and education to raise awareness of the problem and its warning signs may help prevent elder abuse. Most states have a confidential hot line open 24 hours a day to report suspected abuse.
People can help by:
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the injury?
Treatment depends on the type of abuse. Any physical injuries should be treated. If possible, the victim needs to be separated from the abuser. Emergency care is provided when physical injuries have occurred.
When suspected abuse is reported to the proper government agency for adult protective services, it will arrange to help protect the victim. Many different programs and services may be offered, such as:
Untreated elder abuse may continue to grow worse. If the abuse is severe, it can lead to death.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
In cases of domestic abuse, an elder may need to leave the home. He or she may have to live with someone else or in a nursing home to be safe.
What happens after treatment for the injury?
Once the abuse has been stopped, ongoing care of the elderly person continues in a safe place. Ongoing monitoring by the elderly person's doctor and the correct government agency should continue.
Author:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Karen Preston, PHN, MS, CRRN
"Abuse of the Elderly" www.crha-health.ab.ca/hlthconn/items/elder-ab.htm
"Is this Elder Abuse?" www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/elderabuse
"Elder Abuse Prevention" www.aoa.dhhs.gov/factsheets/abuse.html
"What is Elder Abuse?" www.gwjapan.com/NCEA/basic
National Center on Elder Abuse, 1225 I Street, N.W., Suite 725, Washington, D.C. 20005; (202) 898-2586 (voice)