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Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

Image shows an older woman staring thoughfully into the distance.

According to the U.S. Administration for Community Living, elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Put simply, elder abuse occurs when someone intentionally acts in a way that harms an older adult.

Elder abuse can happen anywhere, anytime, and often affects the people who are least able to stop it.

Elder Abuse Comes in Different Forms

Abuse can take many different forms, and isn't always obvious.

  • Neglect or isolation occurs when an someone’s basic needs are not being met, putting them at higher risk for getting sick or hurt. For example, the person may not be going to doctor appointments, taking their medications, eating well, or spending quality time with others. Neglect or isolation can be the result of the person's own choices, or it may be due to the actions or inaction of someone is supposed to help meet their needs.
  • Physical abuse occurs when one person intentionally hurts another person through physical force. Physical abuse may include pushing, hitting, slapping, pinching, and other acts that cause physical pain or injury. When an individual depends on others to take care of them, physical abuse may also include being placed in the wrong position in a bed or chair, force feeding, being restrained, or being given medication without their knowledge or consent.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when someone is forced into a sexual or intimate situation by another person. Sexual abuse may include rape, unwanted sexual contact or talk, or being forced to be naked, be partially undressed, or do sexual or intimate things in front of others. 
  • Emotional or psychological abuse occurs when a person is psychologically hurt by the words or actions of another person. Emotional abuse may include insults, threats, and intimidation, being put into humiliating situations, violations of privacy, and ignoring the individual's rights to make decisions for themselves. 
  • Financial abuse and exploitation occurs when one person uses another person's money, information, or belongings for their own personal benefit. For example, a person may steal money, sell or trade their property, keep money and property away from the other person, access bank accounts and use credit cards, or target them in a scam. Someone can be exploited by a stranger or someone they know, event trusted friends and family members.

Elder Abuse is Under-Reported

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services receives an average of 88 referrals for adult protective services each day. However, the National Institutes of Health estimates most cases of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation never get reported. Learn how to report elder abuse in Ohio.

Factors that Increase the Risk of Elder Abuse

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, older adults are at increased risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation due to a number of factors, including:

  • Lack of support from family, friends and neighbors
  • Dementia
  • Previous experiences of domestic violence and other traumatic events
  • Declining physical health and ability
  • Living with a large number of household members other than a spouse
  • Lower income or poverty
  • Lack of access to - or failure to take advantage of - available community services and supports
  • Age (under 70)
  • Race (African-American)
  • Gender (female)

If you or a loved one are at increased risk for elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, learn to recognize the warning signs.

Services and Supports Can Reduce the Risk

Ohio's aging network provides an array of services and supports for older adults and their families that can help reduce the risk of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation by meeting various needs. Contact your area agency on aging to learn about services and supports where you live. Services vary by location and eligibility, but may include:

  • Caregiver support
  • Home and community-based long-term care
  • Nutrition programs and education
  • Transportation services
  • Home repairs and modifications
  • Health and safety workshops
  • Opportunities for social activity
  • And more!

The Ohio Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for long-term care consumers in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other care settings, including Ohioans who receive long-term care services in their own homes. They help consumers and families understand their rights and can help resolve problems with providers. You can help the ombudsman end elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation for long-term care consumers by becoming an ombudsman volunteer.

The Staying Connected Check-in Service helps prevent elder abuse by preventing isolation. Older Ohioans can sign up to receive a free, daily check-in call to make sure they are all right. Participants have the option to connect with their area agency on aging to learn about services or request a friendly chat.