The World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted the following definition of elder abuse:
Elder abuse (also called "elder mistreatment," "senior abuse," "abuse in later life," "abuse of older adults," "abuse of older women," and "abuse of older men") is "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.
The phrase "any relationship where there is an element of trust" is important because people known to the elderly person commit the most elder abuse. Abuse may show up in one or more aspects such as physical, emotional/psychological, sexual or financial. The National Adult Protective Services Association lists the most reported types of abuse:
- Physical abuse;
- Emotional abuse;
- Financial or material exploitation;
- Sexual abuse; and
These types of abuse and exploitation are frequently committed by spouses, family members and formal caregivers in the home or in assisted living housing or nursing homes, as well as strangers who prey on the aging population.
Elder abuse can be noticed by neighbors, family members, friends and others, but is either denied or ignored because people don't want to get involved or butt in. However, everyone should pay attention to the warning signs. Report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Reference: Carroll County Times (Westminster MD) (July 14, 2017) “Know the signs of elder abuse and report it if necessary”