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What Is Elder Abuse And Neglect?

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 16, 2021 9:00:00 AM / by Calvin Leong




Elder abuse and neglect refers to any way in which someone physically or emotionally harms an older person or takes advantage of him or her. It also includes neglecting to protect an older person from physical, financial, or emotional harm.

What are the different kinds of abuse and neglect?

  • Physical abuse. This includes rough handling, threats with a weapon, throwing objects, pushing, hitting, force-feeding, and improper use of restraints or medicines.
  • Sexual abuse. This involves unwanted sexual contact that is forced or tricked.
  • Emotional abuse. This includes verbal attacks, rejection, humiliation, intimidation, social isolation, or threats. Abuse may also include denying the victim participation in decisions that affect his or her life.
  • Financial abuse. This includes theft, fraud, and improper use of influence to gain control over money or property. Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse.
  • This is a caretaker's failure or refusal to meet the needs of an older person. This can include failure or refusal to provide food, shelter, clothing, personal hygiene, medical care, and social stimulation.

What are the risk factors for abuse and neglect?

Elder abuse is more likely to occur if a person:

  • Is alone, isolated, or lonely.
  • Has experienced a recent loss.
  • Is mentally or physically disabled.
  • Cannot manage his or her personal care or finances.
  • Has contact with someone who abuses alcohol or drugs.
  • Is over 75 years old. The frequency of abuse increases with advancing age.
  • Lives at a care facility with a shortage of beds, too many patients, or not enough staff.

Abuse may also occur with caregivers who:

  • Are under great stress. This may be due to financial, marital, or work problems, a recent decline in health, or loss of a loved one.
  • Have a history of mental illness, such as depression, or mental disability.
  • Abuse alcohol or other drugs.

Suffering from pain and rheumatism. Closeup elderly, senior old man looking miserable in great excruciating hand ache painful wrist colored in red isolated on gray background. Health issues problems

How do I know if someone is being abused or neglected?

Someone may be going through abuse or neglect if the person:

  • Has physical signs of abuse, such as:
    • Burns
    • Scars
    • Bruises
    • Broken bones.
    • Sores
    • Rashes
    • Weight loss.
    • Injury to the genitals.
    • Difficulty walking.
  • Does not have necessary medical and personal items such as medicines, hearing aids, or eyeglasses.
  • Shows behavioural signs of abuse or neglect. The older person may:
    • Move away from or seem afraid of a caregiver.
    • Withdraw socially.
    • Become violent or agitated.
    • Seem depressed.
    • Have nightmares or difficulty sleeping.
  • Lives in an unhealthy or unsafe environment.
  • Shows signs of not being cared for, such as poor hygiene or dirty clothes.

How can elder abuse be prevented?

If you are a family member or a friend:

  • Try to see the person regularly. Frequent visits will help you determine if the person shows signs of abuse or neglect.
  • Get to know the staff who are taking care of the person.
  • Express any concerns you may have right away. Keep notes of the conversations.
  • Take pictures if there are signs of abuse or poor health standards.
  • Offer to accompany the person to medical appointments, financial institutions, and other important meetings.

If you are an older person:

  • Remain active, avoid isolation, and cultivate a strong support network of family and friends.
  • Be active in taking care of your health problems. Do what you can to remain healthy.
  • Refuse to allow anyone, even close relatives, to add his or her name to your bank accounts without your clear consent.
  • Avoid signing documents or transferring money or property to anyone without first getting legal advice.
  • Ask for professional help right away if you need help managing your health care, daily living, or finances.
  • Assert your right to be treated with respect and dignity.
  • Ask a family member or friend you trust to represent you as power of attorney in the event that you are not able to.
  • Outline your wishes with advance directives or a living will for medical decisions.

Portrait of a beautiful elder woman smiling at home

What should I do if I think someone is being abused or neglected?

If you believe that you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call your local emergency services (999 in Malaysia.).

If you or someone you know is being abused or neglected, contact:

  • Any healthcare provider.
  • The police.
  • An This is a person or service you can contact to discuss neglect or abuse claims in long-term care.

Seek help right away if:

  • You are being hit.
  • You are being verbally or emotionally abused.
  • You go without food for long periods of time.

Also, seek help right away if an older adult you know:

  • Shows signs of not being fed.
  • Is not receiving needed medical care.
  • Is being physically or emotionally abused.

What are the treatments for someone who is abused or neglected?

Treatment depends on the type of abuse or neglect. It may include:

  • Medical treatment for any injuries.
  • Being seen by a healthcare provider if there are memory problems (dementia).
  • Support groups if the older person seems lonely, anxious, or depressed.
  • Counselling for depression, anxiety, and other mental health related issues.
  • Financial guidance to help manage money or property.


  • Elder abuse and neglect refers to any way in which someone physically or emotionally harms an older person or takes advantage of him or her.
  • The signs of abuse include burns, broken bones, weight loss, bruises, confusion, fear of caregivers, and worsening of physical and mental health.
  • The best way to prevent this abuse is to have frequent contact with the adult. Express any concerns you may have right away.
  • If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse or neglect, seek help right away.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.



Dyer CB, Pavlik VN, Murphy KP, et. al.: The high prevalence of depression and dementia in elder abuse or neglect. J Am Geriatr Soc 2020; 48: pp. 205-208.

Lachs MS, Pillemer KA: Elder abuse. N Engl J Med. 2015; 373: pp. 1947-1956.

Mosqueda L, Burnight K, Gironda MW, et. al.: The abuse intervention model: a pragmatic approach to intervention for elder mistreatment. J Am Geriatr Soc 2016; 64: pp. 1879-1883.

World Health Organization. European report on preventing elder maltreatment. http://euro.who.int/_data/assets/pdf_file/0010/144676/e95110.pdf (accessed 3 Mar 2021).


For more information on elder abuse and neglect, visit:

Laws Against Elder Abuse And Neglect

Ways To Prevent Elder Abuse


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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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