Elder abuse affects hundreds of thousands of people each year with only about one out of fourteen cases coming to the attention of authorities. This means that there is a severe lack of recognition of a crime being perpetrated on the fastest-growing segment of our population. These victims tend to be the most isolated of all victims of family violence. They are likely to have fewer social connections to the community that would normally be an avenue of help. The elderly can be victimized by their adult children, spouses and other relatives due to chronic illness, mental impairment and financial or physical dependence.
To report suspected fiduciary or physical abuse of the elderly, contact:
Adult Protective Services hotline at (800) 510-2020.
Their mailing address is:
Adult Protective Services/Area Agency on Aging
9335 Hazard Way, Suite 100
San Diego, California 92123.
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse includes bodily assault, such as beating and burning; sexual assault; and physical restraint. As with other types of victims of abuse, elder victims are usually isolated; self-imposed isolation may also result from the embarrassment/shame about the signs of abuse. Neglect and psychological abuse often occur concurrently with this type of abuse. Sexual abuse is coercing or forcing an elderly person to take part in any nonconsensual sex act.
Psychological/Emotional Abuse: Psychological maltreatment of the elderly is best described as the infliction of mental anguish through humiliation, which includes ridiculing older persons for their behavior and blaming them for certain attitudes, actions or events; harassment, which consists of intimidation, threats, and provoking fear for health and well-being; and manipulation, which includes denying access to information, giving false information, isolating the older person from others, and interfering in decision-making. It includes repeated swearing at, insulting, humiliating, rejecting, ignoring or frightening an older person. Keeping an older person in isolation and trying to prevent access to him or her also is psychological abuse.
Material Exploitation: Material exploitation of the elderly is manifested in two primary ways. The first is the misuse, theft, or extortion of the older person's money, property, possessions, or insurance. The second is the denial of the older person's access to his or her material goods.
Violation of Rights: This includes denying the rights of a competent elder, denying the rights of an incompetent elder (when guardianship is indicated), involuntary servitude (forcing the older person to perform tasks that are inappropriate or inhumane), or forcefully evicting the older person from his or her residence and forcing him or her to relocate.
Passive Neglect: Passive neglect, the most common and clearly understood type of elder maltreatment, results when the caretaker of a frail and dependent older person is incapable of meeting that person's needs. The victim may fail to receive proper hygiene, medication, supervision, nutrition, and other important personal care.
Neglect includes depriving the elderly of basic care and essentials for normal everyday existence such as food, hygiene, or medication.
Active Neglect: The deliberate withholding of services, material needs, personal care, or intangibles (e.g., social contact) constitutes active neglect. Often such behavior is linked to the caretaker's desire to cause pain and suffering or to inflict punishment upon a dependent older person. Victims are typically kept in physical and social isolation, which makes identifying them difficult.
Elderly/dependent adults are targeted for abuse and exploitation because: