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What Are the Different Types of Elder Abuse?

Nursing home patient

Elder abuse can be defined as a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. (World Health Organization, 2002) Elder abuse can take various forms, via intentional or unintentional neglect including physical, emotional, and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect. The elderly are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It is important to ensure that they are given dignity and respect; especially in any care they may receive.

In order to truly identify or report abuse it’s important to understand the many types of elder abuse that exist in our society. Below are some of the most common forms of abuse that you may come across when it comes to entrusting the day-to-day care of a loved one to an individual other than yourself.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse generally results in some type of bodily injury or impairment. This can range from cuts and scratches to brain injuries or broken bones. No matter the severity of the injuries, they should be taken seriously and looked into. This form of abuse can also involve using drugs inappropriately, physical punishment, force-feeding, and using physical restraints.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse cause emotional pain, distress, or anguish. Common forms of either emotional or psychological abuse include verbal assaults or insults, intimidation, humiliation, threats, and harassment. If emotional abuse occurs, the individual is often treated like a child or is isolated from activities they enjoy, even seeing friends or family. Emotional abuse is usually categorized as verbal abuse while psychological abuse is more often categorized as non-verbal.


Neglect generally refers to a caregiver’s failure to provide the proper care an elderly person requires or needs. It is the failure to provide the dependent individual with life necessities, such as food, clean water, shelter, personal hygiene, clean clothing medicine, safety, and basic comfort. Neglect is either active or passive; meaning the caregiver either intentionally withholds care or becomes unable to fulfill his or her responsibilities for any number of reasons.

Financial or Material Exploitation

Financial abuse can be defined as illegally or improperly using an elderly person’s assets or possession, whether they be financial or material. This form of abuse involves preying on the weaknesses of vulnerable senior citizens. This abuse involves fraud, theft, and other methods used to extract financial or material gain. For example, an individual may be cashing checks without authorization, forging signatures, stealing money or possessions, deceiving an elderly person into signing a document, as well as improperly using a position of authority involving management of assets, such as power of attorney.

Signs of elder abuse may be missed by care or medical professionals who work with elderly individuals because of various factors such as a lack of proper training. Noticing signs of elder abuse early on is critical to stopping it, especially because the victim may not report it. If you suspect that a loved one is a victim of elder abuse in the Maryland or Washington D.C. area, contact Potter Law, LLC today.