Elder Abuse

Nearly two million older Americans are believed to experience abuse each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging. But only one in five cases is reported. Elder abuse is preventable but it requires research, education, advocacy and public awareness.

Elder abuse is a general term used to describe certain types of harm to older adults. Other terms commonly used include: "elder mistreatment," "senior abuse," "abuse in later life," "abuse of older adults," "abuse of older women," and "abuse of older men."

One of the more commonly accepted definitions of elder abuse is "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."[1] This definition has been adopted by the World Health Organization from a definition put forward by Action on Elder Abuse in the UK.

The core feature of this definition is that it focuses on harms where there is "expectation of trust" of the older person toward their abuser. Thus, it includes harms by people the older person knows or with whom they have a relationship, such as a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services. Many forms of elder abuse are recognized as types of domestic violence or family violence.

The term elder abuse does not include general criminal activity against older persons, such as home break ins, "muggings" in the street or "distraction burglary", where a stranger distracts an older person at the doorstep while another person enters the property to steal.

The abuse of elders by caretakers is a worldwide issue. In 2002, the work of the World Health Organization brought international attention to the issue of elder abuse.[2] Over the years, government agencies and community professional groups, worldwide, have specified elder abuse as a social problem.[3]

In 2006 the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) and an increasing number of events are held across the globe on this day to raise awareness of elder abuse, and highlight ways to challenge such abuse.[4]


Key Findings:

  • The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion dollars, a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.
  • Instances of fraud perpetrated by strangers comprised 51% of the articles. Reports of elder financial abuse by family, friends, and neighbors came in second, with 34% of the news articles followed by reports of exploitation within the business sector (12%) and Medicare and Medicaid fraud (4%).
  • Medicare and Medicaid fraud resulted in the highest average loss to victims ($38,263,136) followed by fraud by business and industry ($6,219,496), family, friends, and neighbors ($145,768), and fraud by strangers ($95,156).
  • Women were nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men. Most victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone, and required some level of help with either health care or home maintenance. In almost all of the cases, there existed a combination of tenuous, valued independence and observable vulnerability that merged in the lives of victims to optimize opportunities for abuse by every type of perpetrator -- from the closest family members to professional criminals.
  • Nearly 60% of perpetrators were males. Most male perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 59, while most of the female perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 49. Perpetrators who were strangers often targeted victims with visible vulnerabilities (e.g., limited mobility, displays of confusion, or living alone).
  • The number of news articles increased and the character of elder financial abuse changed during the holidays. From November 2010 through January 2011, of the 1,128 articles on elder abuse identified through the newsfeeds, 354 (31%) concerned elder financial abuse. At least one-quarter (27%) of the cases reported were random, predominantly single-event crimes accounting for relatively small monetary rewards and characterized by a high level of brutality and disregard for human life. Reports of elder financial abuse perpetrated by strangers and by friends and families were very similar (47% vs. 45%, respectively).


Red Flags of Abuse

Does a senior or adult with a disability that you know display any warning signs of mistreatment?


  • Lack of basic hygiene
  • Lack of adequate food
  • Lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, medications)
  • Lack of clean appropriate clothing
  • Person with dementia left unsupervised
  • Bed bound person left without care
  • Home cluttered, filthy, in disrepair, or having fire & safety hazards
  • Home without adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heat, cooling, working plumbing, and electricity)
  • Untreated pressure “bed” sores

Financial Abuse

  • Lack of amenities victim could afford
  • Elder “voluntarily” giving inappropriate financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship
  • Caregiver has control of elder’s money but is failing to provide for elder’s needs
  • Caretaker “living off” elder
  • Elder has signed property transfers (Power of Attorney, new will, etc.) when unable to comprehend the transaction

Psychological Abuse

Caregiver isolates elder (doesn’t let anyone into the home or speak to the elder)

  • Caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, overly concerned about spending money, or uncaring

Physical Abuse

Inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores or burns


Reporting Suspected Abuse and Neglect

To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in Idaho:

State Government Agencies

Laws and Regulations

To submit updated state hotline, helpline, or web information, Click Hereor email NCEA-info@aoa.hhs.gov.


In case of emergency, call your local police station or 911


Help for Those Who Have Experienced Mistreatment

National Associations and Advocacy Organizations


Additional Resources for Elder Abuse Information
Research on Elder Abuse | centeronelderabuse.org         www.centeronelderabuse.org/.
National Center on Elder Abuse - Administration on Aging www.ncea.aoa.gov/
2011 Idaho Summit on Elder Abuse and Exploitation idahoeldersummit.org/

Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho
2120 N. Lakewood Drive, Suite B
Coeur d' Alene, Idaho  83814
Phone: 208-667-3179
Phone: 800-786-5536
Fax:     208-667-5938


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