What is elder neglect abuse?

Elder abuse is more common than you think. Learn how to spot warning signs and what you can do to help an elderly person at risk. If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, tell someone. Relate your concerns to local adult protective services, the long-term care ombudsman, or the police.

If you are the caregiver of an elderly person and think you are at risk of hurting or neglecting them, help and support is available. While many seniors face health problems as they age, they should never have to suffer abuse or neglect. Frequent arguments or tensions between the caregiver and the elderly person or changes in the elder's personality or behavior can be broad signs of elder abuse. Adult Protective Services (APS), present in all 50 states, is designated to receive and investigate complaints of elder abuse and neglect.

Federal law requires every state attorney general's office to have an MFCU that investigates and prosecutes Medicaid provider fraud and patient abuse and neglect in health care programs and home health services that participate in Medicaid. When someone with power over an elderly person intentionally harms them or puts them at risk of harm, their actions or inaction are considered elder abuse. Laws in most states require professions that help on the frontline, such as doctors and home health care providers, to report suspected abuse or neglect. Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, or sexual harm inflicted on an older adult, financial exploitation, or neglect of their well-being by people who are directly responsible for their care.

Such contact may involve physical sexual acts, but activities such as showing an older person pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sexual acts, or forcing the person to undress are also considered sexual abuse of older persons. Emotional and psychological changes can often go hand in hand with other types of elder abuse, such as physical harm or neglect. Signs of elder abuse can be difficult to recognize or confuse with symptoms of dementia, or the frailty of the elderly person or caregivers can explain them that way. The first and most important step in preventing elder abuse is to recognize that no one of any age should be subjected to violent, abusive, humiliating, or neglectful behavior.

The stress of caring for the elderly can lead to mental and physical health problems that leave caregivers exhausted, impatient, and more susceptible to neglecting or attacking the elderly in their care. The reporting agencies in each state are different, but each state has a designated service to receive and investigate complaints of elder abuse and neglect. If you suspect that an elderly person is at risk of being neglected or overwhelmed by a caregiver, or of being the victim of financial grievance, it's important to talk. Elder abuse can also take the form of intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver.

Erika Shipley
Erika Shipley

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