About Elder Abuse

By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D,

Revised: May 21, 2014

Elder Abuse is Against the Law In Most States

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse may be physical or psychological. Elder abuse may be committed by a younger caregiver or household member upon an older friend or relation, or may occur between two older people who live together. Elder abuse can occur even when there is genuine love and affection between the people involved. Forms of elder abuse may be physical, emotional, financial or a combination of all three.

Elder abuse may take many forms, including:

  • hitting or slapping
  • withholding food/medication
  • unnecessary use of physical restraints
  • yelling or insulting
  • threats of violence
  • misuse of funds
  • theft
  • fraud

It is estimated that one out of every ten elders lives in a situation that may lead to Elder Abuse

It may be difficult to tell whether Elder Abuse is occurring, and even more difficult to get the people in the situation to talk about it. It may be hidden by isolation or disguised by what seems to be a pleasant home setting.

Why Does Elder Abuse Occur?

Elder Abuse can begin with seemingly normal conflicts and negative interactions that can gradually build up to abusive situations. Usually, in a situation where abuse occurs, one person is providing for the other in some way, while the other is reliant upon that person for much or all of their care.

Elder Abuse may occur for a variety of reasons, but the most common contributing factors are:

  • Stress created by the care needs of the elder
  • Inadequate financial resources
  • Isolation and lack of emotional support for elders and their caregivers
  • Existing family problems and dynamics

Its important to remember that abuse can occur in any situation. The abuser may be a relative, caregiver, spouse, a neighbor, or even a salesperson.

What Does the Law Say About Elder Abuse?

In the United States, all states except two (North Dakota and Pennsylvania) have laws against elder abuse. In Oregon, there are laws specifically focused on abuse of persons 65 or older, injury, neglect, or failure to care for residents of any age in nursing homes, and protective service to anyone over 18 who is aged blind, or disabled.

Who is Required by Law to Report Elder Abuse?

Oregon Law requires that the following people report elder abuse employees of:

  • Mental Health Programs
  • Oregon Human Resources Department
  • County Health Department
  • Senior Centers
  • Nursing Facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Public Officials Working with Elderly
  • Physical and Occupational Therapists
  • Information and Referral Workers
  • Outreach Workers
  • Legal Counselors for Nursing Home Residents
  • Nurses
  • Social Workers
  • Physicians
  • Police Officers

In addition, the following private citizens are required to report elder abuse:

  • Clergy Members
  • Relatives of Nursing Home Residents

What Should I do If I Suspect or Know That Elder Abuse is Occurring?

Call your local Area Agency on Aging, or your local Law Enforcement Agency.