What is Elder Abuse?

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elder abuse is a general term used to describe certain types of harm to older adults. Other terms commonly used include: "elder mistreatment", "senior abuse", "abuse in later life", "abuse of older adults", "abuse of older women", and "abuse of older men".

One of the more commonly accepted definitions of elder abuse is "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person." This definition has been adopted by the World Health Organization from a definition put forward by Action on Elder Abuse in the UK.

The core feature of this definition is that it focuses on harms where there is "expectation of trust" of the older person toward their abuser. Thus it includes harms by people the older person knows or with whom they have a relationship, such as a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services. Many forms of elder abuse are recognized as types of domestic violence or family violence.

The term elder abuse does not include general criminal activity against older persons, such as home break ins, "muggings" in the street or "distraction burglary", where a stranger distracts an older person at the doorstep while another person enters the property to steal.

In 2006 the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) and an increasing number of events are held across the globe on this day to raise awareness of elder abuse, and highlight ways to challenge such abuse.


Although there are common themes of elder abuse across nations, there are also unique manifestations based upon history, culture, economic strength and societal perceptions of older people within nations themselves. The fundamental common denominator is the use of power and control by one individual to affect the well-being and status of another, older, individual.

There are several types of abuse of older people that are generally recognised as being elder abuse, including:

Physical: e.g. hitting, punching, slapping, burning, pushing, kicking, restraining, false imprisonment/confinement, or giving excessive or improper medication

Psychological/Emotional: e.g. shouting, swearing, frightening, or humiliating a person. A common theme is a perpetrator who identifies something that matters to an older person and then uses it to coerce an older person into a particular action. It may take verbal forms such as name-calling, ridiculing, constantly criticizing, accusations, blaming, and general disrespect, or non verbal forms such as ignoring, silence or shunning.

Financial abuse: also known as financial exploitation. e.g. illegal or unauthorized use of a person’s property, money, pension book or other valuables (including changing the person's will to name the abuser as heir). It may be obtained by deception, coercion, misrepresentation, or theft. The term includes fraudulently obtaining or use of a power of attorney. Other forms include deprivation of money or other property, or by eviction from own home

Sexual: e.g. forcing a person to take part in any sexual activity without his or her consent, including forcing them to participate in conversations of a sexual nature against their will; may also include situations where person is no longer able to give consent (dementia)

Neglect: e.g. depriving a person of food, heat, clothing or comfort or essential medication and depriving a person of needed services to force certain kinds of actions, financial and otherwise. The deprivation may be intentional (active neglect) or happen out of lack of knowledge or resources (passive neglect).

In addition, some U.S. state laws also recognise the following as elder abuse:

Rights abuse: denying the civil and constitutional rights of a person who is old, but not declared by court to be mentally incapacitated. This is an aspect of elder abuse that is increasingly being recognised and adopted by nations

Self-neglect: elderly persons neglecting themselves by not caring about their own health or safety. Self neglect ( harm by self) is treated as conceptually different than abuse (harm by others).

'Abandonment': deserting a dependent person with the intent to abandon them or leave them unattended at a place for such a time period as may be likely to endanger their health or welfare.

Institutional abuse refers to physical or psychological harms, as well as rights violations in settings where care and assistance is provided to dependant older adults or others.

... read the full article at Wikipedia - Elder Abuse