Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse may be physical, emotional, financial, neglect by others, or self-neglect.

There are many potential types of elder abuse. If any of the below types of abuse are suspected, social workers can provide short-term counseling, case management and referral services to stop the abuse and ensure the on-going safety of the person, involving the courts if required, and if the victim agrees.

Physical abuse includes slapping, hitting, bruising, beating or any other intentional act that causes someone physical pain, injury or suffering. Physical abuse also includes excessive forms of restraint used to confine someone against their will (i.e., tying, chaining or locking someone in a room).

Emotional abuse is threatening, intimidating or humiliating an individual and causing them emotional pain, distress or anguish. Emotional abuse can be verbal or non-verbal; it includes insults, yelling and threats of harm or isolation.

Sexual abuse is any sexual activity to which the older or dependent adult does not consent or is incapable of consenting. Non-consensual sexual activity includes everything from exhibitionism to sexual intercourse.

Financial or material exploitation is when someone misuses, mishandles or exploits the elderly or dependent adult's property, possessions or financial assets. This includes using those assets without the individual's consent or manipulating the older or dependent adult for the financial benefit or material gain of another.

Neglect takes place when, intentionally or unintentionally, a caregiver fails to support the physical, emotional and social needs of the elder or dependent adult. Neglect can include denying food or medication, health services or contact with friends and family. Neglect is the most common form of elder mistreatment in domestic settings.

Isolation means any of the following:

  • Acts intentionally committed for the purpose of preventing, or that serve to prevent, an elder or dependent adult from receiving his or her mail or telephone calls.
  • Telling a caller or prospective visitor that an elder or dependent adult is not present, or does not wish to talk with the caller, or does not wish to meet with the visitor where the statement is false, is contrary to the express wishes of the elder or the dependent adult, whether he or she is competent or not, and is made for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from having contact with family, friends, or concerned persons.
  • False imprisonment, as defined in Section 236 of the Penal Code.
  • Physical restraint of an elder or dependent adult, for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent from meeting with visitors.

Abandonment occurs when a caregiver deserts an elderly or dependent person.

Self-neglect requires intervention when elderly or dependent adults fail to meet their own physical, psychological or social needs or they threaten their health or safety in any way. Often times, physical or mental illness, isolation or substance abuse prevent elderly or dependent adults from being able to take care of their own basic needs.