Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is one of the most important issues facing our nation today. Elderly persons are vulnerable to many different forms and types of abuse. It should be noted that, even though elder abuse rates continue to rise, many forms of elder abuse are preventable. Please read through the Q&A below to learn more about elder abuse and what you can do to prevent or reduce abuse of the elderly.

Quick Facts on Elder Abuse:

  • -2/3 of elderly domestic violence and neglect victims are women
  • -Over 90% of elder abuse goes unreported
  • -Reporting elder abuse is the most important thing YOU can do to prevent or reduce this problem!

“How can I prevent elder abuse?”

YOU can prevent elder abuse by (i) being aware of the warning signs that abuse is occurring, and (ii) REPORTING the abuse!

“Who are the abusers?”

According to recent statistical data, 54% of abusers are spouses, 24% of abusers are the elderly person’s children, and 18% of abusers are caretakers.

“What if I suspect someone is a victim of elder abuse?”

CALL 9-1-1.

You may also contact Adult Protective Services at 1-877-767-2385 or the Pima County Council on Aging at 1-520-790-7262

If you suspect or witness elder abuse:

“What is Elder Abuse?”

Generally speaking, elder abuse is 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. Elder abuse differs from other forms of abuse in that elder abuse may occur through the mere act of neglect. There is no requirement of physical acts of abuse to constitute elder abuse.

“How many people are suffering from elder abuse?”

Although the actual number of elderly persons suffering from elder abuse is not known (due to the extreme lack of reporting of elder abuse) statistics have indicated which groups of elderly persons are being abused or who are most likely to be abused. Studies indicate that most victims of elder abuse are white women, over the age of 75, who suffer from social isolation and loneliness and have suffered a recent loss of a loved one. Most victims of elder abuse are dependent upon other people for daily life activities and suffer from cognitive impairments.

“Are there different forms of elder abuse?”

YES! There are seven different types of elder abuse. The seven types of elder abuse are: physical, emotional, financial, neglect, sexual, verbal, and mental. All forms of elder abuse can be reported to authorities and MUST be reported in order to make a difference in preventing continued elder abuse.

“What are the warning signs of elder abuse?”

There are many warning signs of elder abuse. For physical and sexual abuse cases, the physical character of the elderly person’s body is the most important indicator of abuse. Also, be aware of the character and background of those persons who have time “alone” with the elderly person when not supervised by other people. Also, be aware of any apprehension, fear, or emotional tension the elderly person exhibits when possible abusers are in their presence. In cases of emotional, verbal and mental abuse – elderly persons often exhibit attitudinal and personality changes. Thus, a great indicator that an elderly person is suffering from emotional, verbal, or mental abuse is a change in attitude, personality, or routine. One of the easiest ways to identify these forms of abuse is to talk with the elderly person and discuss these issues in confidence. Finally, for financial abuse, keep a close eye on all financial transactions by the elderly person. Also, be aware of the amounts of cash the elderly person has available to them and where they keep their cash-on-hand. Watch for suspicious financial transactions or missing monies.

“What is neglect and what are the warning signs?”

Neglect, as a form of elder abuse, has two forms: neglect by another person and self-neglect. Neglect by another person is defined as passive abuse and behaviors, including withholding of medication, medical treatment, food, or personal care necessary for the well-being of the elderly person. Self-neglect, on the other hand, is a function of diminished physical and mental ability. In some cases, social and economic conditions may play a role. Self-neglect is not a voluntary reaction but, rather, a horrible involuntary reaction to circumstances. Both neglect and self-neglect are normally apparent in all cases. Be aware of the elderly person’s personal hygiene habits and schedule, as well as their access to medications and food.

“Why are elderly persons more likely to be abused?”

There are many theories of why elderly persons are more likely to be abused. Some theories focus on the psychopathology of the abuser, in that the caregiver has a higher tendency of abusing the elderly person because the caregiver is financially dependent on the elderly person, or because the caregiver cannot handle the stress and pressures associated with the complete care of the elderly person. Another theory focuses on the vulnerability of the elderly person. The vulnerability theory posits that characteristics of the elderly person, such as incapacities and impairments, render the elderly person frail and vulnerable to all forms of abuse. Finally, most elderly abuse stems from a history of family violence or long-term abuse. In fact, most elder abuse is committed by persons who have been abusing the elderly person for years – such as a spouse or a child.

“Who do I contact if I suspect or witness elder abuse?”

You suspect or witness elder abuse – CALL 9-1-1. You may also contact Adult Protective Services at 1-877-767-2385 or the Pima County Council on Aging at 1-520-790-7262.

“Is Arizona a MANDATORY REPORTING state?”

YES! According to Arizona statutory law, any person who is responsible “for the care of an incapacitated or vulnerable adult and who has a reasonable basis to believe that abuse or neglect of the adult has occurred or that exploitation of the adult’s property has occurred shall immediately report or cause reports to be made of such reasonable basis to a peace officer or to a protective services worker.” The statute specifically lists doctors, surgeons, hospital workers, dentists, psychologists, social workers, peace officers, guardians and conservators. However, the statute also includes, “(any) other person who has responsibility for the care of an incapacitated or vulnerable adult.” Any person who has a legal duty to report abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an incapacitated or vulnerable adult, and who fails to report such abuse is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.