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Elder Abuse Information

Elder Abuse is Rarely Reported
One of the obstacles in determining an accurate number of elder abuse victims is the fact that elder abuse is rarely reported.  Estimates show that only 1 in 14 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities.  The reasons why this abuse is rarely reported include:

Fear

  • Fear of retaliation by the abuser
  • Fear of not being believed
  • Fear of being institutionalized or separated from family and familiar things
  • Fear of the criminal justice system
  • Fear of loneliness

Protect the Abuser
Adult children and caregivers are often the abusers and because of the guilt and shame in being abused by one's own child or by a trusted caregiver, the abuse is not reported.

Social Isolation
An isolated older victim may not know how or where to seek help.  Elders often live alone or with family members and don't interact with others in the community.

Self-Blame/Denial
Many victims do not seek help because they either blame themselves for the abuse or they tolerate and accept the abuse.

Inability to Report
Mental impairments:  Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia may cause memory loss and impair the ability to communicate effectively. 

Physical impairments: These may affect the victims ability to get to the phone or leave the home to report abuse or a stroke may affect their ability to communicate.

Types of Elder Abuse & the Warning Signs

  • Physical Abuse:  The infliction of physical pain or injury and/or use of physical restraints that result in physical pain or impairment.
    Warning signs:  bruises, welts, lacerations, fractures, burns, hair missing from being pulled, abrasions from physical confinement, over or under medicated, unexpected deterioration of health, victim is agitated or fearful, caregiver refuses to let elder have visitors.
  • Sexual Abuse:  Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person
    Warning Signs:  unexplained genital infections or sexually transmitted diseases, torn or bloody underclothes, difficulty walking or sitting, victim is withdrawn, fears touching, shameful, anxious.
  • Psychological/Emotional Abuse: infliction of mental pain, anguish or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.
    Warning signs: fearful, eating disorders, self-medication with alcohol or prescription medications, depression, agitation, withdrawn, anger, low self-esteem.
  • Financial Abuse/Exploitation: illegal or improper use of funds, property, or assets.
    Warning signs:  Unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills, unexplained or sudden withdrawal of money from accounts, disparity between assets and living conditions, unusual interest by family member in an elder's assets, changes in the elder's will/other documents, improper use of guardianship, conservatorship, or power of attorney.
  • Neglect:   Failure or refusal to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an elderly person
    Warning Signs:  Bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene, unsanitary/unsafe living conditions, improper use of medication; victim appears detached, unresponsive, helpless.

Characteristics of Victims

  • Majority are 75+ years of age
  • Two-thirds are female
  • Have one or more physical or mental impairments
  • Often widowed or divorced and socially isolated
  • Usually live with the abuser

Characteristics of Abusers

  • 90% of abusers are known to the victim
  • More than two-thirds are relatives of the victim
  • May be socially isolated, possibly substance abusers or persons with poor employment records
  • May be forced to provide care and are unprepared for the responsibility and related stress
  • May be financially or emotionally dependent on the elder

How can you help?
Study the warning signs of the types of abuse and share this information with friends, relatives and neighbors.  Report suspected abuse to your local police department or call Arizona Adult Protective Services adult abuse hotline at 1-877-SOS-ADULT (1-877-767-2385).

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