Each year in the United States, 1 in 10 adults over 60 suffer some form of elder abuse at home. What’s more, a staggering 1 in 6 who live in a community setting also experience maltreatment. With the population quickly aging, these statistics are on the fast track to worsen over the next several years. Though grossly underreported, the cases of physical elder abuse, one of the most common forms, are rapidly growing each year. Abuse can take on many forms, and as such, can be difficult to spot if you’re not looking out for it. Here’s what you need to know to keep your senior loved ones safe.
Physical elder abuse is when physical pain or injury is inflicted upon an older adult. This means things like hitting, kicking, pinching, shoving, or even burning.
Physical abuse can result in minor cuts and bruising, or more seriously, broken bones, disabilities, and even death. The CDC reports that from 2002 to 2016, more than 643,000 older adults were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal assaults and an astounding 19,000-plus homicides occurred. Keep in mind that these are just the reported cases. Thousands more incidents occur each year that go unreported.
In addition to outward indications, physical abuse can also leave lasting emotional and psychological effects. Many victims feel anxious, depressed, or fearfulness that doesn’t subside.
While any senior may be abused, some older adults run a greater risk than others. Some common risk factors for physical elder abuse are:
According to the NCOA, “in almost 60% of elder abuse or neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two-thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.”
If you suspect elder abuse in any form, whether it’s at home, within a community, or in a nursing facility, here are some next steps you can take:
You must report elder abuse to prevent it. If you or somebody you know is in immediate danger, call 911. If the victim is not in immediate danger, but there are signs of abuse, notify Adult Protective Services.
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Originally published April 28, 2023
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