Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is the mistreatment or harming of an older person. It can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, along with neglect and financial exploitation. Perpetrators include children, other family members, and spouses—as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities. Many social factors—for example, a lack of support services and community resources—can make conditions ripe for elder abuse. Ageism (biases against or stereotypes about older people that keep them from being fully a part of their community) also play a role in enabling elder abuse. By changing these contributing factors, we can prevent elder abuse and make sure everyone has the opportunity to thrive as we age.

Nurse intimidating and senior citizen

Up to 5,000,000 older Americans are abused every year, according to the National Council on Aging.


Forms of Abuse


  • Physical – Inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult
  • Sexual – Touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when an older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced
  • Emotional – Verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation
  • Financial  – Misuse or withholding or an older adult’s resources by another person
  • Neglect – Caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.

Warning Signs


  • Dehydration or unusual weight loss
  • Missing daily living aids (glasses, walker, medications, etc.)
  • Unexplained injuries, bruises, cuts, or sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions and poor hygiene
  • Unattended medical needs


  • Increased fear or anxiety
  • Unusual changes in behavior or sleep
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Withdrawals from normal activities 


  • Fraudulent signatures on financial documents
  • Unpaid bills
  • Unusual or sudden changes in spending patterns, will, or other financial documents


  • Increased fear or anxiety
  • Unusual changes in behavior or sleep
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Withdrawals from normal activities

Abusers are both women and men.  In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.  Two thirds of perpetrators are adult children or spouses – according to the National Council on Aging.

How Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?

Educating seniors, professionals, caregivers, and the public on abuse is critical to prevention. If you’re an older adult, you can stay safe by:

  • Taking care of your health.

  • Seeking professional help for drug, alcohol, and depression concerns and urging family members to get help for these problems.

  • Attending support groups for spouses and learning about domestic violence services.

  • Staying active in the community and connected with friends and family. This will decrease social isolation, which has been connected to elder abuse.

  • Using direct deposit for all checks.
  • Planning for your own future. With a power of attorney or a living will, you can address health care decisions now to avoid confusion and family problems later. Seek independent advice from someone you trust before signing any documents.
  • Handling your own outgoing and incoming mail.
  • Not giving personal information over the phone. 
  • Having your own phone. 
  • Reviewing your will periodically.
  • Knowing your rights. If you engage the services of a paid or family caregiver, you have the right to voice your preferences and concerns. If you live in a nursing home, call your Long-Term Care Ombudsman. The ombudsman is your advocate and has the power to intervene.

How Can You Help?

  • If the victim is in immediate danger call 9-1-1
  • If someone suspects that an elderly person is being mistreated call one of the following:
    • Your local Adult Protective Services Office
    • Connecticut Long-Term Care Ombudsman 866.388.1888
    • Your local police department (numbers vary by town)
    • State of Connecticut Department of Social Services, Protective Services for the Elderly 888.385.4225
    • Connecticut Medicare Home Health Hotline 800.828.9769

Other Resources