elderly person

15 Nov Your Guide to Elder Abuse and Reporting It

Did you know that elder abuse is a lot more common than you might think? In fact, the CDC (Center For Disease Control And Prevention) reports that “1 in 10 people aged 60 and older who live at home” have experienced abuse. That is a massive amount of elderly adults. Some elderly groups may be even more vulnerable to abuse. For example, elderly adults that live in isolated conditions or are over the age of 80.

Nobody should have to suffer through elder abuse. If you believe that you or someone you love is being abused, don’t hesitate to report it and contact a lawyer.

Today, we’ll go over some of the basics of recognizing and reporting elder abuse. It’s important to know what to look out for and how to act on it.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Generally speaking, elder abuse is an act that causes harm (or a risk of harm) to an elderly adult. It’s typically committed by a caregiver and can be intentional or unintentional (neglect).

Keep in mind that elder abuse can take many forms and may be physical or emotional/psychological. It can also come from a number of different sources. Abuse can come from a family member, spouse, nurse, nursing home staff member, as well as other sources.

Today we’ll talk more about what elder abuse is, how to spot it, and how to report it.

Types Of Elder Abuse

As we mentioned above, elder abuse can take on many forms. See below for some of the most common types of elder abuse.

Physical Abuse

Probably one of the most well-known types of abuse, physical abuse typically involves the use of physical force to harm an elderly person. This could involve actions such as hitting/striking an elderly person, burning, pushing, or other use of force. Physical abuse can also appear in the form of unnecessary use of restraints or force-feeding. Please note that this is not a complete list — physical abuse can take many forms.

Emotional/Psychological Abuse

Aside from physical violence, there are other types of abuse that can affect an elderly person just as much. Verbal abuse, insults, intimidation, harassment, and other cruel acts can cause significant emotional distress. Keeping an elderly person isolated, away from friends and family, can be a form of emotional abuse as well.

For example, if a caretaker was to keep an elderly person locked in their room, with no access to friends or family, this could be a form of emotional abuse. It’s important to keep in mind that non-physical abuse can be just as damaging, or even more so than physical harm.


Direct actions aside, abuse can also come in the form of inaction, i.e., neglect. Neglect generally means the failure to provide the necessary care that an elder needs. This might mean failure to provide food, clothing, medicine, a suitable home, or something of the like.

For example, if a caretaker does not provide food for an elderly person that is unable to get it themselves, they may become malnourished. This could potentially be seen as a form of neglect. Leaving an elderly person without heat, water, or other basic necessities may be neglect as well.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any kind of unwanted (or non-consensual) sexual contact. This could include things such as rape, unwanted touching, coerced nudity, or other sexualized behavior. Keep in mind that sexual abuse spans a lot more than rape. Any non-consensual sexual contact with an elderly person that the caretaker is responsible for could potentially be sexual abuse.


Unlike neglect, abandonment involves the complete desertion of an elderly person. For example, leaving an elderly person that you are responsible for in a public place, with no intention of coming back for them, could be abandonment.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation typically involves the improper (or illegal) use of an elderly person’s money or assets. This could also include material objects such as cars or property. This type of exploitation can involve coercion, theft of money or possessions, or deceit for the purpose of financial gain.

For example, if a family member is coercing or otherwise forcing an elderly person to rewrite their will or transfer money to them, this could potentially be financial exploitation. Ultimately, financial exploitation can take many forms; these are just a few examples.

Signs Of Elder Abuse

Symptoms of elder abuse can come in many forms and shapes.

Physical abuse is perhaps the most straightforward. Injuries such as bruises, scratches, broken bones, fractures, or signs of restraint can be signs of physical abuse. Sexual abuse may further leave signs such as bruising around the abreast or genital area, unexplained genital infections, damaged underclothing, and more.

On the abuser’s part, suspicious behavior can sometimes be a sign of elder abuse. For example, refusal to allow others to see an elderly person alone or talk to them in private may be a sign of hidden abuse.

Emotional and psychological abuse, on the other hand, typically has different signs. Look out for signs of distress such as agitation, depression, non-responsiveness, withdrawnness, or other unusual behavior. 

Neglect may be present when an elderly person shows clear signs of malnutrition, dehydration, untreated medical conditions, or unsanitary living conditions (lice, lack of heating or water, etc.) Keep in mind; however, that neglect is a particularly large umbrella term and can include any number of failures to fulfill your obligations as a caretaker to an elderly person.

Although financial exploitation may not always leave bodily signs, there may be other indications. For example, sudden changes in financial status or assets are one of the biggest red flags to look out for. An abrupt change to a will, bank signature card, or other financial documents is another thing to keep an eye out for.

Last but not least, it’s important to remember that abandonment can be a form of abuse as well. If an elderly person is suddenly abandoned by their caretaker, this should be reported immediately.

Elder abuse isn’t always a violent or purposeful action. Much of elder abuse is negligence and can occur due to a variety of factors. Please report anything that you suspect might be elder abuse. Also, keep in mind that just because there are no physical signs of bodily harm does not mean that abuse did not occur. Emotional and financial abuse can be just as harmful.

How To Report Elderly Abuse

The Pennsylvania Department Of Aging has a number of great resources for elderly adults. One of these is their 24-hour hotline for reporting elder abuse. The number for the hotline is 1-800-490-8505. If you or someone you love is in need of help, don’t hesitate to call that hotline.

Elder Abuse Lawyer In Philadelphia

If you or someone you know has been the victim of elder abuse, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a lawyer as soon as possible. Elder abuse can have devastating emotional and physical consequences and needs to be addressed. Here at the Cochran Firm Philadelphia office, our lawyers are not only a great legal resource, but they’re also a sympathetic shoulder to lean on. We understand that abuse can be a sensitive topic, so we strive to make all of our clients feel as comfortable as possible.

Our lawyers can lay out some possible legal options for you and help you decide on next steps. In addition to this, a lawyer can also guide you through important legal paperwork and deadlines. Don’t wait; seek help today.

In addition to elder abuse, our firm also specializes in cases related to personal injury, auto accidents, birth injuries, medical malpractice, construction accidents, and much more. Learn more about our law firm and what we do by visiting our “Practice Areas” page. If you have any doubts about whether or not your case is a good fit for us, don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting. Our firm offers FREE consultations. To book your first consultation, simply call or fill out our online form.

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