10 Percent of Our Elders Suffer Abuse

Review Article Suggests Widespread Elder Abuse

The “young old” are particularly at risk, since the most prevalent perpetrators of abuse are older children and adult family members.

According a recent review article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 10 percent of elderly Americans have suffered some form of physical, emotional, or financial abuse. Worse, the researchers behind the article suggest that this figure is an underestimate of an increasingly disturbing social and public health problem in our country. The primary reason it is very likely that significantly more than 10 percent of seniors have been abused is because this figure is derived from self-reports. As we know, many of victims of elder or nursing home abuse are unwilling or unable to come forward due to shame, mental health issues, and dementia.

Family Member and Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

The 10 percent is composed of both elders living at home with family members and those living in a care facility like a nursing home. The “young old” are particularly at risk, since the most prevalent perpetrators of abuse are older children and adult family members. However, the staff at nursing homes as well as other residents of nursing homes are also responsible for a larger number of cases of abuse and neglect.

Recognizing Signs of Elder Abuse

Researchers, doctors, and public health officials alike insist that raising awareness about the prevalence of elder abuse and educating people to recognize signs of neglect is the best way to combat the problem.

Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse or Neglect


  • Lack of basic exercises, including range of motion
  • Open or festering wounds
  • Bedsores
  • Lack of regular baths and personal hygiene
  • Lack of or inadequate oral and dental care
  • Failure to replace diapers and clothing after an episode of incontinence
  • Ignoring or isolating bedfast residents
  • Transferring residents using an insufficient number of staff members
  • Failing to keep residents hydrated
  • Refusing to answer call for help lights and signals
  • Failing to assist residents to the toilet when asked
  • Being left wet or soiled with feces

Emotional abuse

  • Verbal abuse, including yelling, screaming, cursing, browbeating, and insults
  • Treating an elder like a child or infant
  • Depriving an elder of essential services
  • Humiliation
  • Scapegoating or blaming
  • Ignoring the elder
  • Isolating an elderly person from friends and family
  • Isolating an elderly person from other residents or patients
  • Threats to harm or physically abuse an elder
  • Punishing an elder, particularly using bizarre or inappropriate methods such confinement, isolation, tying down, terrorizing, or “gaslighting”

Sexual Abuse

  • Vaginal and rectal bleeding
  • Vaginal and rectal discharge
  • Genital and rectal scarring
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Urinary infections or irritations
  • Bruises
  • Abrasions
  • Lacerations
  • Gractures
  • General body soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Rope bums

Financial Abuse

  • Unusual activity in a bank, savings, or investment account
  • Unexplained withdrawals from financial accounts
  • Checks written to a caregiver or financial professional
  • Loans given to a caregiver or financial professional
  • Addition of names to an elder’s bank account or ATM card
  • Unpaid bills
  • Changes to key financial documents, including last will and testament
  • Forged signatures
  • Large “gifts” to a caregiver or financial professional
  • Disappearance of funds, property, assets, or valuables
  • Isolation of the elder by caregiver or financial professional
  • Reluctance or evasiveness by elder to talk about financial matters

PA & NJ Nursing Home Misconduct Law Firm  

Name *

If you or someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, please contact our team of nursing home misconduct attorneys toll-free at 215-462-3330 or via our online contact form.