Stop the Abuse of Our Seniors! Awareness and Prevention Tips

Caregivers of senior loved ones are wonderful people.

Unfortunately, not all those purporting to be in the role of caregiver really are — and too many seniors are suffering as a result.

We don’t want to think about it really, or even believe that this is true, but every year an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

Believe it, be angry and act!

In support of the Year of Elder Abuse Prevention (YEAP), sponsored by the Administration on Aging, we would like to discuss and hopefully increase awareness of the seriousness of the situation affecting so many of our older adults. It is happening even more than you may think possible and probably more than is reflected in the statistics.

The term elder abuse has broad meaning and includes situations, both unintentional and purposeful, performed by an individual or caregiver against a vulnerable older adult. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and anytime. The most frequent victims of elder abuse are those who are isolated, over 80 years old, dementia sufferers and women. Oftentimes elders are the prey of those with substance abuse or mental health problems.

Abuse Types and How to Spot Them

Understanding different types of abuse and their signs can make it easier to spot when it’s happening, either in loved ones or other seniors we encounter.


  • Lack of food: not having enough nourishing food resulting in weight loss, not having access to food, consuming spoiled or contaminated food
  • Lack of basic hygiene or appropriate clothing: not having ability or water to clean clothes, clothes that are ill fitting and in disrepair, lack of access to supplies or functional ability to receive daily grooming
  • Lack of medical aids (e.g., glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, or medications)
  • Person with dementia left unsupervised: risk for wandering away or causing harm to self
  • Person confined in bed is left without care
  • Home is cluttered, dirty, or in disrepair creating a situation of potential harm
  • Home lacks adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heating and cooling, plumbing, or electricity) to satisfy activities of daily living
  • Untreated bed sores or pressure ulcers

 Financial Exploitation

  • Lack of affordable amenities and comforts in an elder’s home
  • Giving uncharacteristically excessive gifts or financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship
  • A caregiver has control of an elder’s money but fails to provide for the elder’s needs
  • An older adult has signed property transfers (power of attorney or will, for example) but is unable to comprehend what the transaction means
  • Theft of money or property

 Physical Abuse

  • Inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, or burns
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases

Emotional Abuse

  • Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, or unexplained changes in alertness
  • Caregiver isolates the elder (doesn’t let anyone in the home or speak to the elder)
  • Caregiver or individual is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling or uncaring

We should all be on the lookout for elder abuse in those who are most vulnerable. It may be a neighbor, friend or even a family member who needs your help. If you suspect an elder is being abused, please contact your local adult protective services agency.

Ways You Can Help

  • Visit a home-bound senior and offer them assistance
  • Attend an event near you and invite others to join to help raise awareness
  • Volunteer with aging services in your area, including elder abuse support groups and community centers, or help homebound seniors with household tasks that are too much for them to manage
  • Recognize adult protection services personnel who advocate for vulnerable seniors
  • Let policy makers know the importance of services for vulnerable adults in your community
  • Provide respite to caregivers in your area
  • Learn more by visiting the website of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)
  • Wear purple on June 15 – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to show your support and increase visibility for the cause

We MUST protect our seniors and begin to break the silence surrounding elder abuse!

4 thoughts on “Stop the Abuse of Our Seniors! Awareness and Prevention Tips”

  1. Take care of my mom at home…she has been bedbound for the last year. She is 85 years of age. Had some help from carepartners, but cuts have been made in the medicare program for elderly and can no longer receive a nurse to check on her at least once a week because of cuts. Was told if my mom suffered from a life threatning illness or had bed sores, they could continue visiting her under medicare. Ironically…if I were to not care for her properly, we would have someone to check on her and medicare would cover… get her bloodwork done every three months, will cost $85.00. Just a shame medicare can’t do more so someone can keep their parent at home…..Wouldn’t a nursing facility cost them more and plus she would not get the individual care needed???

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Linda. We know how difficult it is to care for elders in the home, sometimes it feels like there is little support out there. We hope that your story will help others to see how important it is to make financial plans for aging healthcare needs. None of us can count on Medicare or Medicaid to provide the services we need or want for our seniors. We hope you continue to visit Senior Care Corner for more information sharing!

  2. I cared for my parents and first husband the last two and a half yrs of their lives. Thankfully we had hospice aides, nurses, and social workers there every day for the last five months of their lives. I never did any kind of abuse or neglect.Without the hospice workers, any accusation of misuse would have gotten ugly, but when questions were raised, those folks stood by me, stating unequivocally there was no abuse of any sort. If there had been, they would have seen it. My parents & husband all passed within six weeks of each other, and are truly, deeply missed. I am so glad we were able to keep them at home, where they were treated with love, honor & respect. I miss them all so much every day, seven years later.

    • Thank you for sharing your story Cheryl. Losing a loved one is difficult we know. Time will help your healing, but we never forget. We hope you will continue to stop by Senior Care Corner for more information for caregivers that may help you in the future as you cope with your loss.

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