According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of ten adults over the age of 60 who lives at home experiences some form of abuse. Worse, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services estimates that for every case that is reported, 23 go unreported or undetected, because the victims are ashamed, afraid, or unable to seek help.
Abuse takes many forms, so it is important to understand the different types and to know the warning signs:
The intentional use of force that results in injury, pain, or impairment. Examples include:
Warning signs include unexplained bruises, as well as broken eyeglasses and general fearfulness or nervousness.
Failure to provide basic needs or to protect from harm. Neglect may be intentional or unintentional, with the latter often stemming from ignorance or inability. Examples include:
Warning signs include dirty or unsanitary living conditions, weight loss, untreated medical or physical conditions, and dirty clothing or clothing that is unsuitable for the weather.
Any sexual contact or behavior that is not consensual. This includes forced or unwanted intentional touching of a person who is incapacitated or unable to agree due to cognitive impairment. Examples include:
Warning signs include anal or vaginal bleeding, genital infection, and torn or bloody undergarments.
Deliberately inflicting mental or psychological distress. This can be verbal or nonverbal, and is designed to isolate, humiliate, threaten, or otherwise control a person. Examples include:
Warning signs include changes in personality or behavior, including fear or tension between the senior and abuser.
Illegal or improper use of money, property, or other resources, for the benefit of someone other than the owner. Examples include:
Warning signs include unusual spending or bank withdrawals, unusual purchases (especially for big-ticket items), sudden changes in financial condition, and unpaid bills.
Abuse occurs in all communities, regardless of income or ethnicity. Although older adults are often victims of physical or emotional abuse because they are frail, they are often targets of financial abuse and fraud because scammers know that seniors and retirees typically have more money than younger adults.
The risk factors for becoming a victim of abuse are surprisingly similar to the factors that increase the risk of a caregiver becoming abusive. So be especially alert if your loved one has or is cared for by someone with:
Whether or not you see any warning signs, red flags should always go up if your loved one displays unexpected personality changes or becomes unwilling to let others into his or her home.
If a senior has been physically abused or is in immediate danger, call 911 immediately!
Adult Protective Services are part of the Office of Children & Family Services. For help or information, call 1-844-697-3505 or look up your county’s Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services.
Contact NYC Adult Protective Services (APS) at 1-212-630-1853
NYC Department for the Aging Elderly Crime Victims’ Program at 1-212-442-3103
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigates and prosecutes crime involving elderly victims and operates an Elder Abuse Unit. Contact them at 1-212-335-8920, or call Manhattan DA’s Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-212-335-9007.