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Learn About Elder Abuse Prevention

Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected and exploited by family members and others. There are three basic categories of elder abuse: domestic elder abuse, institutional elder abuse and self-neglect or self-abuse.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse takes different forms. Physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force to willfully inflict pain or injury, or the inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints. Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind. Psychological abuse may include humiliating, intimidating, or threatening. Financial exploitation is the improper use of the person's resources without his or her consent, for someone else's benefit. Neglect is the failure of a caretaker to provide necessary goods or services to avoid physical harm or mental anguish-- abandonment, denial of food or healthcare. Self-neglect is characterized as the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his or her own health or safety.

How do I report suspected Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse prevention laws vary considerably from one state to another. Every state has developed reporting agencies called adult protective services (APS) to receive and investigate reports of suspected elder abuse.

APS agencies keep the information that they receive confidential. They screen calls for potential seriousness, and if the agency decides the situation may violate state elder abuse laws, a caseworker will conduct an investigation (in cases of an emergency, usually within 24 hours). Services are available if the victim needs crisis intervention. If elder abuse is not substantiated, most APS agencies will work with other community agencies to obtain the social and health services that the older person needs.

If you know of an abused, neglected, exploited or self-neglecting elder who needs help, the National Center on Elder Abuse maintains a list of reporting numbers.


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