Defining Elder Abuse

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Working or volunteering in a church means you are exposed to people of all ages. Although many abuse stories are focused on children, it’s important to remember the older generations in our congregations. Elder abuse is a very real problem, and it affects seniors of all ages and backgrounds.

Elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. Laws vary from state to state, but the National Center on Elder Abuse has developed the following descriptions of the general forms of elder abuse:

  1. Physical abuse: Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need
  2. Emotional abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts
  3. Sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind
  4. Exploitation: Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder
  5. Neglect: Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, healthcare or protection for a vulnerable elder
  6. Abandonment: The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person
  7. Self-neglect: The behavior of an elderly person that threatens his or her own health or safety. Self-neglect generally manifests itself in an older person as a refusal or failure to provide himself or herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication (when indicated), and safety precautions. Some factors that may contribute to self-neglect include dementia, depression, and/or abuse of alcohol.