Healthy Geezer: The Troubling Truth About Elder Abuse

Elder abuse

By Fred Cicetti 

Q. How common is elder abuse?  

The U.S. Administration on Aging found that more than 500,000 people over the age of 60 are abused or neglected each year.  

But how do we define “elder abuse”? It can take a variety of forms: physical, sexual, emotional and financial. Neglect of an older person also is within the umbrella of elder abuse. 

One of the most common types of elder abuse is self-neglect. Self-neglect often occurs in older adults who have declining health, are isolated or depressed, or who abuse drugs or alcohol. These are some symptoms to look for: 

  • Physical injury such as a bruise, cut, burn, rope mark, sprain or broken bone.
  • Refusal of the caregiver to allow you to visit the older person alone. 
  • Indications of dehydration, malnourishment, weight loss and poor hygiene. 
  • Negative behavior such as agitation, withdrawal, expressions of fear or apathy. 
  • Unexplained changes in finances. 

For every new incident of abuse, neglect, and/or self-neglect reported and substantiated by public authorities, it is estimated that four go unreported. This could be related to the fact that about 90% of abusers are related to the victims. People older than 80 years are two to three times more likely to suffer abuse and neglect than the general senior population.

Related: Healthy Geezer: Why Is High Blood Pressure So Dangerous?  

All 50 states have elder-abuse prevention laws and reporting systems. Florida’s Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies investigate reports of suspected elder abuse.  

The APS agency keeps calls confidential. If the agency decides there may be a law violation, it assigns a caseworker to investigate. If the victim needs crisis intervention, services are available. If elder abuse cannot be substantiated, most APS agencies will work with other community agencies to get necessary social and health services. Seniors have the right to refuse services offered by APS. The APS agency provides services only if the senior agrees or has been declared incapacitated by the court and a guardian has been appointed.  

Find the telephone numbers at the website operated by the National Adult Protective Services Association at


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