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7 Types of Elder Abuse

Wong Shu Lee  


  June 15, 2022

The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) happens each year on June 15th. It represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted on some of our older generations. 


Elder abuse can be defined as “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”, according to the United Nation. It is a global social issue that affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue that deserves the attention of the international community.


Elder abuse can be broken down into 7 different types of abuse name:


  1. Neglect
  2. Physical abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Abandonment
  5. Emotional or psychological abuse
  6. Financial abuse
  7. Self-neglect 


All types of elder abuse can lead to devastating consequences, including physical and/or emotional harm and even death.


Knowing the types of elder abuse can help protect older adults — especially those living in nursing homes. It is also key for older people and their loved ones to know about elder abuse to prevent abuse from happening or stop it before severe harm occurs.


This article will mainly focus on elder neglect, elder abandonment, emotional abuse, and elder self-neglect. 


Elder Neglect


Elder neglect happens when a caregiver fails to protect an older adult from harm, resulting in serious injuries or illnesses.


Cases of elder and nursing home neglect are not honest accidents. Rather, they are the result of carelessness or a lack of regard for an older person’s health.


Signs of elder neglect include:


  • Dehydration and/or malnutrition
  • Inadequate or unclean clothing
  • Lack of food in the home/long-term care facility
  • Lack of needed medical aids
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Unclean or unsafe home/long-term care facility
  • Unpaid bills
  • Untreated infections or injuries
  • Weight loss


Neglect can lead to serious health problems, including bedsores, sepsis, and even death. Unfortunately, neglect is particularly high risk in assisted living facilities with staffing issues.


Elder Self-Neglect


Self-neglect happens when an elderly person is no longer able to meet their basic daily needs, and they suffer as a result.


An older person may be suffering from self-neglect if they can’t:


  • Drink or feed themselves without help
  • Dress themselves
  • Maintain basic hygiene
  • Maintain their home
  • Manage financial affairs
  • Properly address their medical needs


Many older adults struggle with letting go of their independence or acknowledging that they may not be able to care for themselves.


However, if an older person has caregivers or lives in a nursing home, then self-neglect should not be occurring. In these cases, a caregiver may be committing neglect.


Elder Abandonment


Sometimes paired with neglect, elder abandonment happens when someone who cares for an older person intentionally deserts them.


The former caretaker may leave the elder at a hospital, nursing home, or another care facility without any formal arrangement, or with relatives who did not agree to be caregivers.


Someone may be the victim of elder abandonment if they are alone and:


  • Appear confused, lost, or scared
  • Have poor hygiene
  • Seem frail, malnourished, or dehydrated


Regardless of the situation, elder abandonment can lead to a great deal of confusion and pain — and put their physical health at risk.


Emotional Elder Abuse


Psychological and emotional abuse are intentional acts that inflict mental pain, fear, or distress on an elder.


Emotional abuse can take many forms. For example, caregivers may belittle elders, call them names, or threaten them. But it’s not just name-calling – caregivers may even cut off older people from loved ones or resources.


Signs of emotional and psychological abuse in elders include:


  • Appearing depressed, withdrawn, or scared
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Different eating or sleeping patterns
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden changes in behavior/personality


Emotional and psychological changes can often go hand-in-hand with other types of elder abuse, such as physical harm or neglect. This means it’s key to check on your loved one’s overall health if you notice signs of emotional abuse.


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