What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse refers to the intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to a vulnerable adult.  Elder abuse can take many forms including: 

  • Financial exploitation
  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect by a care-giver or self-neglect by an older adult
  • Verbal or Emotional abuse

What are the risk factors?

Elder abuse can happen to anyone and can occur anywhere - in a person's own home, in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, even in hospitals.  It affects older adults across all socioeconomic groups, cultures, and races.  Based on available information, women, older adults who are homebound or isolated, and individuals ages 80 and above are most at risk.  Perhaps most surprising is that the mistreatment is most often perpetrated by the individual's own family members.

Common risk factors for abuse include:

  • The individual is socially isolated or withdrawn
  • The individual is in poor physical health
  • The individual has dementia or mental health or substance abuse issues
  • The perpetrator has mental health or substance abuse issues

What can I do about it?

If you suspect abuse - report it.  In Michigan, please call 1-855-444-3911.  If you or someone you know is a victim of fraud or a financial scam, call your local law enforcement agency.
How to identify the warning signs of abuse:
1.  Financial Exploitation: 

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

2.  Physical Abuse:

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

3.  Neglect:

  • Lack of basic hygiene or appropriate clothing
  • Lack of food
  • Lack of medical aids (ie: glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, or medications)
  • Person with dementia left unsupervised
  • Person confined in bed is left without care
  • Home is cluttered, dirty, or in disrepair
  • Home lacks adequate faclilites (stove, refridgerator, heating and cooling, plumbing, and electricity)
  • Untreated bed sores or pressure ulcers

4. Verbal or Emotional Abuse:

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

To learn more about elder abuse and financial fraud check out these websites: