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Risk Factors for Elder Abuse

adult helping senior in hospitalElder Abuse is a growing problem. While we do not know all of its causes or how to stop its spread, we do know that knowledge is the first step towards stopping it. Concerned people, like yourself, can spot the warning signs of a possible problem and make a call for help.

Elder maltreatment is generally the result of a combination of psychological, social and economic factors and the mental and physical conditions of the victim and the perpetrator. Abusers can be men or women of any age, race or socioeconomic status. Mistreatment can be perpetrated by family members, friends, service providers, peers or strangers. Although the circumstances below cannot explain all types of elder abuse, they are some of the signs and circumstances that endanger elder adults.

  • Dementia and Cognitive Impairment
    Elders with dementia are thought to be at greater risk of abuse and neglect than those of the general elderly population. Caregivers could be experiencing a heightened perception of burden and; depressive symptoms while the care recipient could display physical and psychological aggression toward the caregiver.
  • Domestic Violence Grown Older
    Spouses make up a large percentage of elder abusers and a substantial proportion of these cases are partnerships in which one person has traditionally exerted power and control over the other through emotional abuse, physical violence and threats, isolation and other tactics for many years.
  • iStock_000030701822_XXXLargePersonal Problems of Abusers
    Abusers are often dependent on their victims for financial assistance, housing and other forms of support because of personal problems, like mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction or other dysfunctional personality traits. The risk of elder abuse seems to be particularly high when the person lives with adult children displaying these characteristics.
  • Living With Others and Social Isolation
    Both living with someone and being socially isolated are identified as risks for elder abuse. Although contradictory, research shows that abusers who live with the elder have more opportunities to abuse while keeping them both isolated from the larger community so that the abuse is not discovered. Further research is needed to explore the relationship between these factors.

For more information please visit the National Center on Aging Website.