The National Council on Aging and other organizations and government agencies report that approximately 1 in 10 people aged 65 or older have experienced some form of abuse. Estimates range as high as 5 million elder Americans are abused each year. Yet, data also indicated that only about 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse of any type are reported to any agency. For financial abuse specifically, it is estimated that only 1 in 44 such cases are reported.
Abusers are both men and women and roughly two-thirds of abusers are adult children or spouses.
In Oregon, as of 2015, there were approximately 619,000 elderly people, meaning approximately 62,000 victims of abuse. Odds are that you know an elderly person who is being abused or you know someone who knows an abused elderly person.
Types of Abuse
The predominant categories of elder abuse are:
- Physical abuse - inflicting physical pain or injury
- Sexual abuse - touching, fondling or any other sexual activity when the victim is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, or subject to threats or physical force
- Emotional abuse - verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment or intimidation
- Confinement - restraint or isolation for other than medical reasons
- Passive neglect - unintentional failure to provide proper food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc.
- Willful deprivation - intentional withholding of medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device or other physical assistance that exposes the victim to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm
- Financial abuse - misuse, improper taking or withholding of money or other assets
Keep in mind a person may be abused in multiple ways.
Warning Signs of Abuse
Some of the more common signs of different types of abuse are:
- Physical abuse - bruising, broken bones, abrasions, burns
- Emotional or sexual abuse - unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, sudden change in alertness or unusual depression, strained or tense relationships
- Financial abuse - sudden change in financial situation, unusual reticence to discuss money, unpaid bills and foreclosure notices for people who should have enough to take care of those things
- Neglect or deprivation - bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss
What to Do if You Suspect Abuse
Report suspected abuse to your local office of Adult Protective Services or call the Oregon Safeline.
Any report should include:
- Names and addresses of the victim, caregivers, and suspected abusers (to the extent you know or can readily obtain that information)
- Description of the nature and extent of the abuse
- Any explanation given for the abuse by the victim or suspected abuser
Reporting triggers a mandatory investigative procedure.
For life-threatening situations, do not be afraid to call 911.
For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice or for the formation of an attorney-client relationship.
- Brook D. Wood