FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

What is elder abuse?

Any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an adult 60 years or older.

What are the forms of elder abuse?

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Psychological abuse
  • Financial exploitation
  • Neglect

Where should I report elder abuse?

If the situation is serious, threatening or dangerous, call 911 or your local police for immediate assistance.

For state specific information, please call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

How does elder abuse affect me?

There are now more Americans age 65 and older than any other time in U.S. history. Older adults who are victims of violence have additional health care problems than other older adults, including increased bone or joint problems, digestive problems, depression or anxiety, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and heart problems (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, (2011). Elders who experienced abuse, even modest abuse, had a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who had not been abused (Dong X, Simon M, Mendes de Leon C, Fulmer T, Beck T, Hebert L, et al. (2009).

The impact of abuse, neglect, and exploitation also has a profound fiscal cost. The direct medical costs associated with violent injuries to older adults are estimated to add over $5.3 billion to the nation’s annual health expenditures (Mouton CP, Rodabough RJ, et al. (2004), and the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial exploitation were estimated to be $2.9 billion in 2009, a 12% increase from 2008 (American Journal of Public Health, 94(4). Experts agree that older adults require more and more supervision and professional servicing during aging. Elder abuse is a problem that many people will have to face at one time or another.

Why should I report elder abuse?

On average, a third of victims of financial fraud die within 12-18 months of the crime. Unfortunately, many cases are not reported to the authorities. With an estimated five million victims per year it is difficult to gain the support of officials if less than 5% of abuse is all that is reported. If the shared belief is that elder abuse is a serious problem, it can be better addressed.

Why is elder abuse so under reported?

It is estimated that due to the nature of this type of crime, many victims are uncomfortable with coming forward due to fear of harsher retribution from the perpetrator. For family members, there could be the tendency to solve the problem without outside assistance that could possibly “air the dirty laundry” and break up the family unit. Additionally, it is also possible that many people are unfamiliar with where to turn when a situation is discovered.

What is the financial impact of elder abuse to society?

Elder abuse has an affect on families, businesses and puts a strain on government resources and non-profit organizations. It is estimated that abuse costs tens of billions of dollars a year in lost revenue, damages and health care costs.

What are the possible causes of elder abuse?

Elder abuse is an extremely complex problem. Below is a list of some possible factors that cause elder abuse.
  • Caregiver stress: Individuals who do not have the necessary skills or resources and who aren’t prepared to be a caregiver may experience stress which may lead to elder abuse.
  • Dependency or impairment of older adults: Individuals in poor health are more likely to be abused than those who are in relatively good health. Caregivers who are financially dependent on the older adult are also more likely to abuse.
  • External stress: The same things that cause child abuse and spousal abuse can also cause elder abuse: financial problems, job stress, family problems, etc.
  • Social isolation: Again, the same social isolation that produces child and spousal abuse can also cause elder abuse. Social isolation is both an indicator of potential abuse as well as a potential contributing cause.
  • Intergenerational violence: When violence is learned as a form of acceptable behavior in childhood, that child now in the role of caregiver is simply returning the abuse they suffered.
  • Personal problems of the abuser: Caregivers who have such problems as alcoholism, substance abuse or behavior health problems are more likely to become an abuser than those who don’t have such problems.

How can you tell if an older adult needs help?

It may be difficult to tell whether abuse or neglect is occurring. In general, look for changes in the person’s overall behavior or habits. Take into consideration how and what the person is communicating, what their economic conditions are, signs of their emotional health, their physical limitations, their personal appearance and the condition of their home and surroundings. It may be even more difficult to get the victim of abuse or neglect to talk about it. Abuse may be hidden by isolation or disguised by what seems to be a normal home setting. It is important to remember that abuse can occur in any situation.

What are the characteristics of victims?

  • Majority are 75+ years of age, average age is 78
  • Two-thirds are female
  • Have one or more physical or mental impairments
  • Often widowed or divorced and socially isolated
  • Usually live with the abuser
  • If victims live alone, they fear being institutionalized
  • Inexperienced in handling financial matters

What is the “I Will” pledge?

In a word, it is your promise – a promise that can have extraordinary benefits. Besides being a personal commitment to treat elders with respect, the “I Will” pledge is also your assurance that you will educate others about elder abuse and an assertion that you will learn and know when and how to report suspected elder abuse to the appropriate authorities.

Why should I sign the “I Will” pledge?

The pledge is intended to raise awareness of the problem of elder abuse. It is a reminder to take notice when things aren’t right and a network which enables you to seek the help you need or that someone else needs. There is help available as you become a driving force to break the silence.

Why would a business sign the pledge?

For businesses, the “I Will” pledge is a compelling way to distinguish your enterprise as one that takes an active role in elder abuse prevention. A 2009 survey conducted by students at Arizona State University showed that 70% of the public indicated that they would patronize a business that had taken the “I Will” pledge over one that had not. Taking the pledge for your company is a remarkable opportunity to have a positive impact on your customers, your employees, and your industry.

How can I become more involved with the “I Will” campaign?

  • You can take the pledge as many others have done
  • You can share information about “I Will” with your friends and family.
  • You can contact us to inquire about sponsorships or volunteer opportunities.

Make a Pledge – Make a Difference

Make the “I Will” Pledge today; get your personal commitment to help prevent and report elder abuse and exploitation started now.