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  • Understanding 7 Types of Elder Abuse and Its Signs Before It’s Too Late

    Understanding 7 Types of Elder Abuse and Its Signs Before It’s Too Late

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    Understanding 7 Types of Elder Abuse and Its Signs Before It’s Too Late

When you choose a nursing home for your loved one, you most likely research the facility and the care they provide. However, despite your efforts, nursing home abuse is rampant in the United States, with the National Council on Aging estimating one in every ten elderly suffering from abuse.

Elder abuse is not limited to nursing homes but can also occur at assisted living facilities or carried out by caregivers responsible for providing care to the elderly. It could even be your family member!

Ehline Law and our California elder abuse attorneys work with victims and family members in protecting the rights of the abused elderly and getting them the help and compensation they deserve. We understand how elder abuse goes unnoticed, so we’ve put up a guide to explain the seven important types of elder abuse you should watch out for.

7 Types of Elder Abuse


This type of abuse occurs when the caregiver fails to provide the necessary services to the elderly. These types of elder abuse are not honest accidents but intentional acts of complete disregard for human lives, which can potentially endanger the elderly, leading to injuries or, in worse cases, wrongful death.

Dehydration, poor personal hygiene, malnourishment, untreated infections or illnesses, and sudden drop in weight are among the many symptoms of elder neglect.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is an intentional act carried out by the caretaker (the nursing home staff or the family members) to inflict physical pain and suffering onto the elderly using physical force. It involves hitting, slapping, pushing, scratching, bruising, physically restraining, and other forms of physical violence that can lead to injuries or, in worse cases, death.

Besides, family members, friends, or even other residents at the nursing home can physically harm the elderly. Physical abuse can either be a one-time incident or a regular occurrence. Since elderly people have weak bodies, even minor physical contact can lead to wounds or long-term health problems.

Physical abuse can also be an assault and falls under intentional tort, which is a serious offense under the criminal justice system. Injured victims or family members of the elderly suffering abuse can also pursue an elder abuse lawsuit against the perpetrator to recover compensation.

According to a 2017 study by the World Health Organization, 9.3% of nursing home staff admitted to physically abusing a resident at least once during their employment. The United States Justice Department revealed that one in 20 elder abuse cases reported to law enforcement authorities involves physical elder abuse. What’s shocking is that the Office of Women’s Health claims that a spouse or a romantic partner often perpetrates physical elder abuse.

There are several causes of physical elder abuse perpetrated by caregivers, including alcohol or substance abuse, criminal history, mental illness (getting pleasure in inflicting pain on others), history of childhood abuse, and stress, among others.

When looking for signs of physical elder abuse, the first thing to examine is the elderly’s body. Common symptoms of physical elder abuse include cigarette burns, broken bones, bruises, hair or tooth loss, sprains, and head injuries.

Besides physical symptoms of elder abuse, there are also emotional signs that you should look out for, and these include:

  • The victim’s inability to explain injuries
  • A strained relationship between the victim and their caregiver
  • Isolation and social withdrawal

Sexual Abuse

Often, elders suffering from medical problems such as Alzheimer’s, inability to communicate, or other cognitive illnesses are vulnerable to sexual abuse. Since the elders suffering from such diseases cannot communicate sexual abuse, this kind of abuse is often underreported and underresearched.

Sexual abuse includes sexual penetration, inappropriate touching, or other sexual contacts without the person’s consent.

An elderly may suffer from physical and behavioral problems following a sexual encounter, and some of the signs you should look out for include the following:

  • Pelvic injury
  • Difficulty walking or sitting down
  • Bruises around the genital area
  • Torn or stained undergarments
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding or irritation and pain in the genitals
  • Panic attacks
  • Social and emotional withdrawal
  • Suicide attempts
  • Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases.

According to research studies carried out by the National Institute of Justice, the oldest victims are least likely to report elder sexual abuse or aid in the conviction of the perpetrator. This often happens when there are no signs of trauma on the body, which leads the victims to believe that no one will believe in their story.

Since sexual elder abuse is often underreported and underresearched, there is little known about the perpetrators and how they carry out these crimes. Family members, nursing staff, friends, other residents, and caregivers can be perpetrators of such a heinous crime. Sometimes, the abuser uses anesthesia or other intoxicants to subdue the victim before sexually abusing them.


The law defines elder abandonment as purposely deserting a person over 65. Abandonment, often confused with neglect, occurs when the person responsible for caring for the elderly suddenly abandons them. They may leave them at a nursing home without any formal arrangement or with elderly friends or family members who did not agree to take care of the older person. It can even involve leaving the elderly person out on the streets.

The caregiver may abandon the victim perhaps because they feel that taking care of them is a burden or they do not have the resources to provide care. Whatever the cause of abandonment, it can cause the victim serious confusion, leading to despair.

The signs of elder abandonment include the elderly alone, completely confused, lost, or scared, having poor personal hygiene, and seeming malnourished or dehydrated.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

In 2020, the World Health Organization carried out research that revealed that one in three nursing home staff members admitted to emotional or psychological abuse at least once during their employment tenure. 67% of all elder abuse victims involve women.

Psychological abuse or emotional abuse are intentional acts of perpetrating mental suffering, distress, or pain. It also includes instilling fear in the victim by threatening them of using violence or ensuing physical abuse.

Emotional elder abuse may be as little as calling the elderly names or cursing them or as significant as scaring them to cut off all interactions with their loved ones. Although emotional abuse does not leave physical marks on the elderly’s body, it does have a devastating impact on their mental health which can lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or other mental health conditions.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is one of the most common types of elder abuse. Elder financial abuse is when someone illegally or improperly uses an elder’s (aged 60 or older) money or belongings for personal use. According to the National Council on Aging, financial abuse causes victims over $2.9 billion annually in the United States, often carried out by family members, friends, or caregivers.

Elders are a vulnerable group that may put their trust in people who may not have their best interests at heart. Adult children are most likely to exploit the elderly financially, but it can often happen at nursing homes or assisted living facilities where caregivers may steal checkbooks or credit cards.

Some of the signs of financial exploitation you should look out for include the following:

  • Missing belongings or older person’s money
  • Irregularities in bank statements
  • Unexplained withdrawals or transactions
  • Eviction notices or unpaid bills.

Financial elder abuse is often challenging to determine compared to physical abuse, which may go on for years before someone catches it. Financial exploitation may not seem as devastating as physical abuse or other types of elder abuse, but it often is. When the elderly lose their life savings, they cannot afford a decent living, with some not having enough money to pay for rent or nursing home fees.


Self-neglect is a severe problem and refers to an elderly person living in a way that risks their health, safety, or well-being. Many older adults do not want to let go of the independence that they once enjoyed in their earlier years and may decide to live without a caregiver or alone in their own homes. In doing so, they risk their health and well-being since they cannot care for themselves like they used to.

Some signs of self-neglect include the inability to feed or drink or cloth themselves, maintain poor hygiene, manage financial affairs, or adequately cater to their medical needs. Self-neglect does not occur at nursing homes or assisted living facilities since the elderly pay for the services. It could be neglect if the elderly person is at a nursing home and exhibiting such symptoms.

What to Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse

If you suspect one or multiple types of elder abuse, it is crucial to take the right steps. Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys have over 15 years of experience handling elder abuse cases across California, and we guide our clients to take the following steps immediately.

Regularly Check up on Your Loved Ones

Whether sexual assault, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, or any other type of elder abuse, it may not be a one-off incident. Elder abuse may be constant and ongoing, adversely impacting the lives of the elderly victims. You should make an effort to see your loved ones regularly, check up on them, and talk to them. Visiting regularly can help you immediately identify signs and symptoms of elder abuse, allowing you to take quick action.

If you observe signs of elder abuse, you must document them by taking pictures of the injuries and keeping notes of behavioral changes. You may consider complaining about the elder abuse to the nursing home first to see whether the elderly situation improves. Make sure you document your complaint and keep tabs on the elderly and their health.

Call for Help

After you’ve witnessed the signs or symptoms of elder abuse, you must act immediately by reporting it to the relevant authorities. If the elderly are in a life-threatening situation, you should consider calling 911 and reporting your concerns about elder abuse.

In case the elderly is not in a life-threatening situation but is a victim of abuse, you should consider reaching out to Eldercare Locator, a free national service of the US Administration on Aging, at 1-800-677-1116. The operators will guide you on the available resources.

Reach out to an Experienced Elder Abuse Attorney

Consulting with an experienced elder abuse attorney is the best thing to do if you suspect elder abuse. An attorney can guide you through investigating the abuse, how to protect your loved one, and how to file a claim.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

If you are a victim of elder abuse or know someone who is, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our legal experts. We will guide you on how to approach the matter, what you could do for protection, and review the available legal options.

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.