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, according to the U.S. Administration for Community Living. It can happen anywhere, anytime, and often affects the most vulnerable members of the community. While approximately 16,000 reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation are made each year in Ohio, the National Institutes of Health estimates that these reports represent only one in 14 cases.
- Neglect occurs when an individual’s basic needs for safety and well-being (such as medical care, adequate nutrition, socialization) are not being met. This can be through the action or inaction of the individual or another person.
- Exploitation is the unlawful or improper use of another person’s resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain. People who exploit older adults can range from total strangers to trusted friends and family members.
- Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that results in injury, pain or impairment. It includes pushing, hitting, slapping, pinching and other ways of physically harming a person. In care settings, it can also include placing an individual in incorrect positions, force feeding, restraining or giving medication without the person’s knowledge.
- Emotional abuse occurs when a person is threatened, humiliated, intimidated or otherwise psychologically hurt. It includes the violation of an adult’s right to make decisions and the loss of his or her privacy.
- Sexual abuse includes rape or other unwanted, nonconsensual sexual contact. It also can mean forced or coerced nudity, exhibitionism and other non-touching sexual situations.
Factors that raise the risk of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation include:
(Source: National Center on Elder Abuse)
- Lack of support from family, friends and neighbors
- 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)