Elder Abuse, a Family Affair (Well Mostly)


Elder abuse may strike you as something that occurs in institutions where seniors perhaps suffering from dementia or mobility issues are abused by staff. While this does occur, about 90% of elder abuse is committed by members of the victims family including spouses, adult children, partners and/or other relatives.1 It is important to remember that family members often assume the role of caregivers, and lack of patience and experience in dealing with advanced age issues can often lead to neglect, or worse, abuse.

Forms of abuse may range beyond physical abuse. Sometimes the abuse is sexual in nature, sometimes emotional. It could include confinement or unnecessarily isolating or restraining an older adult. Seniors are sometimes subject to passive neglect where a caregiver might fail to meet the needs of basic food, clothing and shelter. Willful deprivation might be occurring if an older adult is denied medication or assistance when needed. Sometimes caregivers exploit seniors financially or restrict their access to financial resources. When dementia is involved, the abuse rate exceeds 50%.2

So what does this mean? Are we bad people who don’t take care of our seniors? Not necessarily. In most cases we are good people who need to be trained to handle the difficulties that arise when caring for anyone with disabilities or needs that require medical or physical assistance. The American Red Cross offers a Family Caregiving Program designed for those who care for the elderly or disabled at home. The program covers home safety, assisting with personal care (including bathing), healthy eating, and caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

If you have questions about reporting elder abuse, be sure to visit National Center on Elder Abuse website which allows you to search your state resources. For more information on elder abuse visit the American Society on Aging.


  1. NCEA. “What We Do.” NCEA National Center on Elder Abuse, June 2015,
  2. NCOA. “Elder Abuse Statistics & Facts | Elder Justice.” NCOA, 26 Apr. 2018, www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/.