Elderly Abuse

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Perpetrators include children, other family members, and spouses—as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.1
  • Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) are two factors that make older adults more vulnerable. Recent studies show that nearly half of those with dementia experienced abuse or neglect. Interpersonal violence also occurs at disproportionately higher rates among adults with disabilities.
  • Most states have penalties for those who victimize older adults. Increasingly, across the country, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are trained on elder abuse and ways to use criminal and civil laws to bring abusers to justice.1
    • Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
    • Abusers are both women and men. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two-thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.
    • Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.
    • While likely under-reported, estimates of elder financial abuse and fraud costs to older Americans range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually. Yet, financial exploitation is self-reported at rates higher than emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.1
    • 20% of nursing homes abused, neglected, or mistreated residents in almost half of all states for the second consecutive year.2

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment1.

  • Physical Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment: Bruises may be visible, as well as: pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns.
  • Emotional Abuse: May be occurring when the individual has unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression; strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult.
  • Financial Abuse: There are sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Neglect: Individual may have bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss.
  • Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals.

Nursing Home Red Flags2:

  • Poor ratings from the CMS Nursing Home Compare website.
  • Complaints registered with the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
  • Living spaces are not clean or comfortable; residents don’t look cared for.
  • Not enough staff to serve residents, or poor treatment of residents by staff.
  • Physical, emotional, or behavioral warning signs of elder abuse.
  • Changes to accounts or finances that may indicate financial abuse.
      • Ask bank managers to report suspicious activity on a senior’s account.


      • Learn the signs of elder abuse.


      • Report suspected assisted living crimes to law enforcement immediately.


      • Stay alert, keeping in frequent contact with loved ones at senior living communities.


      • Adequately research the nursing homes you’re looking at by using tools like the Nursing Home Report Card and Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool. You’ll find information about fire inspections, health and safety inspections, staffing, and quality.


    • Pay particular attention to staffing ratios at nursing homes; this largely determines the quality of the care an individual will receive.2