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Elder Abuse

For help, call our hotline at (800) 688-6157.
Our advocates are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Your call is confidential. 

What is
Elder Abuse? 

Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, or sexual harm inflicted upon an older adult, their financial exploitation, or neglect of their welfare by people who are directly responsible for their care. 

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1 in 10 Americans will experience Elder Abuse in their lifetime. 

As older adults become more physically frail, they’re less able to take care of themselves, stand up to bullying, or fight back if attacked. 

Types of
Elder Abuse and Neglect

Elder abuse tends to take place where the senior lives: where their abusers are often adult children, other family members such as grandchildren, or a spouse or partner. Elder abuse can also occur in institutional settings, especially long-term care facilities.

Physical Elder Abuse

Elder physical abuse refers to the use of violence and/or force against an older person in an attempt to cause injury or harm. 

Physical abuse can take many forms, including punching, kicking, pushing, or grabbing. It also includes verbal or physical threatening, rough-handling during bathing or toileting, or physically restraining the older adult.  

Emotional Elder Abuse

The treatment of an older adult in ways that cause emotional or psychological pain or distress. These can include yelling or threats; humiliation and ridicule; habitual blaming or scapegoating. A person can also ignore the older adult, isolate them from friends or activities, and terrorize them through menacing behavior. 

Sexual Elder Abuse

Contact with an older adult without their consent. Such contact can involve physical sex acts, but activities such as showing an older adult pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sex acts, or forcing the elder to undress are also considered sexual elder abuse.

Elder Neglect

Neglect occurs when a caregiver does not respond to the older adult's needs. 

Neglect includes the withholding of essential food, medicines, or general care. Failure to provide daily living care such as bathing, feeding, dressing, or going to the bathroom. 

Elder Financial Exploitation

The unauthorized use of an older adult's funds or property, either by a caregiver or an outside scam artist. An unscrupulous caregiver might misuse an older adult's personal checks, credit cards, steal cash, income checks or household goods, forge the older adult's signature, and engage in identity theft. 

Healthcare Fraud

Carried out by unethical doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, and other professional care providers. This can include, not providing healthcare, but charging for it; overcharging or double-billing for medical care or services; getting kickbacks for referrals to other providers, or prescribing certain drugs; overmedicating or under medicating, and medical fraud. 

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

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Signs of elder abuse can be difficult to recognize or mistaken for symptoms of dementia or the older adult's frailty—or caregivers may explain them to you that way.

In fact, many of the signs and symptoms of elder abuse do overlap with symptoms of mental deterioration, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them on the caregiver’s say-so.

Changes in personality or behavior of an older adult can be a sign of abuse.
Here are other warning signs that abuse may be taking place:

  • Fact: Sexual assault and abuse includes the following:
    Rape—sexual intercourse against a person's will Forcible sodomy—anal or oral sex against a person's will Forcible object penetration—penetrating someone's vagina or anus, or causing that person to penetrate her or himself, against that person's will Marital rape Unwanted sexual touching Sexual contact with minors, whether consensual or not Incest (sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion between family members) Any unwanted or coerced sexual contact Other sexual crimes include: Sexual harassment Solicitation of minors through the Internet Possession of child pornography
  • Myth: "It can't happen to me.""
    Fact: Yes, it can. Sexual violence can happen to anyone – regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or religion. Victims of sexual assault include infants, adults in later life, people of color, LGBT individuals, individuals with disabilities, women and men. In West Virginia, it is estimated that 1 in 6 adult women and 1 in 21 adult men will be a victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her/his lifetime. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey in 2000, teens 16 to 19 are 4 times more likely to be victims of rape than the general population. Ages 12-24 are the highest risk years. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 15% of victims are under the age of 12.
  • Myth: "Sexual violence can sometimes be the victim's fault.""
    Fact: Sexual violence is NEVER the victim's fault. It doesn't matter if someone was dressed seductively, drinking or using drugs, out at night alone, on a date with the perpetrator. No one asks to be raped. The responsibility and blame lie with the perpetrator, never with the victim. The absence of injuries often suggests to others that the victim failed to resist and, therefore, must have consented. Often, rapists only need the threat of violence to control their victims. They also sometimes use drugs to incapacitate their victims. Some victims submit to the assault for fear of greater harm. Submitting does not mean the victim gave consent. Each rape victim does whatever she/he needs to do at the time in order to survive.
  • Myth: "If a child I know was being sexually abused, she/he would tell me right away.""
    Fact: Because they are confused by the abuse, feel responsible, or are being threatened by the abuser, children don't automatically tell a parent. Be sure to talk frequently and openly about sexual abuse with your child. The more they know and the more comfortable they feel talking to you, the more willing they may be to report sexual abuse.
  • Myth: "Males should be able to prevent their rape.""
    Fact: Many people mistakenly believe that men should be able to prevent the assault by putting up a fight. A common belief is that if a man failed to fight off an attack, he is weak. No rape victim – male or female, gay or straight – should be judged for failure to stop an assault. Some people also believe that if the victim is homosexual or had an erection during the assault, he enjoyed it. A sexual response is physiological and not within the victim's control – just because his body reacted sexually does not mean he enjoyed the abuse.
  • Myth: "Rape can't happen in a dating relationship.""
    Fact: Rape is rape, no matter what the relationship is between the victim and perpetrator. Rape is not just committed by strangers. In 2009, 46.6% of assaults were committed by an acquaintance, 7.4% of those were by an intimate partner. Everyone has the right to change their mind – including about sex. One form of sexual contact does not necessarily open the door to other sexual activity. Even if two people have had sex before, one does not have the right to force sex on the other. There are many ways a person can be forced into sexual activity. Sometimes perpetrators use physical force or a weapon, but more often they use coercion, manipulation, or psychological pressure.
  • Myth: "Most rapes are committed by strangers.""
    Fact: It is a common misconception that most sexual assaults are committed by strangers. You are more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone you know – a friend, date, classmate, neighbor, or relative – than by a stranger. Familiar people and places are often more dangerous. More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within 1 mile of their home or at their home (RAINN). 4 in 10 take place at the victim's home. 2 in 10 take place at the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative. 1 in 12 take place in a parking garage. In West Virginia (WV-IBRS, 2009): 70% of reported sex offenses occurred at a residence or in a home. Nearly 82% of all sexual assaults were committed by someone known to the victim. 46.6% of assaults were committed by an acquaintance, 7.4% by an intimate partner, and 27.6% by 'other' family (e.g., in-law, sibling).
  • Myth: "Most rapes are false reports or 'regretted sex'.""
    Fact: According to studies, false accusations of rape only account for 2%-8% of all reported sexual assaults – no higher than false reports for any other crimes.
  • Myth: "When an individual commits rape it's because she/he is 'turned on' and has uncontrollable sexual urges.""
    Fact: Forcing someone to engage in a sexual act against her/his will is an act of violence and aggression. The perpetrator is using sex as a weapon to gain power and control over the other person. Most sexual assaults are planned in advance, making the excuse implausible that what a victim was wearing seduced the offender, therefore causing the rape.

​​​Source Data: 

Help Guide to Mental Health and Wellness |

Each elder abuse report is a snapshot of what is taking place. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance the elder has of getting the quality of care they need.

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Reporting Elder Abuse suspected by a Primary Caregiver 

 Older adults can become increasingly isolated from society and, with no work to attend, it can be easy for abuse cases to go unnoticed for long periods. Many seniors don’t report the abuse they face even if they’re able. Some fear retaliation from the abuser, while others view having an abusive caretaker as better than having no caretaker and being forced to move out of their own home.

  • Do not confront the abuser yourself. This may put the older person in more danger unless you have the elder’s permission and are able to immediately move them to alternative, safe care.

  • Find strength in numbers. If a family caregiver is suspected of abuse, other family members may have the best chance of convincing the older adult to consider alternative care.

  • Do not confront the abuser yourself. This may put the older person in more danger unless you have the elder’s permission and are able to immediately move them to alternative, safe care.

  • Feelings of shame can often keep elder abuse hidden. You may not want to believe a family member could be capable of abusing a loved one, or you may even think that the older adult would be angry at you for speaking up. But the earlier you intervene in a situation of elder abuse, the better the outcome will be for everyone involved.

​​​Source Data: 

Help Guide to Mental Health and Wellness |

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Do you suspect your loved one of being a victim of elder abuse? We can help. 
Call our hotline, (800) 688-6157.
 Our Elder Abuse advocates are available 24 hours a day, 
7 days a week. 
Your call is confidential. 
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