Elder Abuse

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver, familymember or intimate partner. Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuseprevention laws.  For the state of Missouri, Chapter 565 of the Missouri State Statutes discusses theabuse of the elderly and disabled.  

Who are the Perpetrators?

  • Spouses or intimate partners
  • Caregivers and/or family members
  • Staff members of a nursing home or long term care facility

Types of Elder Abuse

Domestic Elder Abuse

Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence or intimidation by an intimate partner, which isused to gain power and control. Several categories of domestic violence against the elderly havebeen identified:

"Domestic violence grown old" is when domestic violence started earlier in life and persists into oldage. Often the adult children have left the house and are in limited contact with their parentsbecause of the strain the abuse put on the family unit.

"Late onset domestic violence" begins in old age. There may have been a strained relationship oremotional abuse earlier in life that became worse as the partners aged. When abuse begins or isexacerbated in old age, it is likely to be linked to: 
  • Retirement
  • Disability
  • Changing roles of family members
  • Sexual changes
Some older people enter into abusive relationships late in life. An older adult’s spouse might havedied; therefore, the individual is lonely and enter into a relationship that is not healthy. 

Institutional Elder Abuse

Institutional Elder Abuse refers to mistreatment occurring in residential facilities (such as a nursing home, assisted living facility, group home, board and care facility, foster home, etc.) and is usually perpetrated by someone with a legal or contractual obligation to provide some element of care or protection.

Forms of Elder Abuse

Laws and definitions of terms vary considerably from one state to another, but broadly defined,abuse may be: 

Physical Abuse
—inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior ( e.g. slapping, bruising, or restrainingby physical or chemical means) 

Sexual Abuse—non-consensual sexual contact of any kind

Neglect—the failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for avulnerable elder

Exploitation—the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior forsomeone else's benefit

Emotional Abuse—inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal ornonverbal acts ( e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening)

Abandonment—desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility forcare or custody of that person

Self-neglect—characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and thatsuch failure threatens his/her own health or safety

Recognizing the Warning Signs
  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be indications of physicalabuse, neglect, or mistreatment
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness and/or unusualdepression may be indicators of emotional abuse
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area may occur from sexual abuse
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators ofpossible neglect
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses areindicators of verbal or emotional abuse
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly personare also potential signs of abuse

Most importantly, be alert. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you shouldstart to question what is going on.

Reporting Elder Abuse
Resources for Support and Assistance

In order to report elder abuse, contact the Missouri Division of Aging Hotline: 1-800-392-0210 or contact your local police department. These agencies can assist with providing resources and/or determining if the behavior is abusive or criminal in nature. 

Additional Sources of Information