What Are the 7 Types of Elder Abuse?

Updated on June 30, 2021

Abuse of the elderly is one of the most egregious types of crime in the world. Unfortunately, it is also more common than is known. These abuses are more than crimes; they are also affronts to the dignity and wellbeing of vulnerable individuals. 

There is no excuse for abusing an elderly person, but it happens far too often. According to the National Council on Aging:

  • Approximately one out of every 10 Americans over 60 have experienced abuse
  • As many as 5 million seniors are abused in the U.S. each year
  • Only one out of every 14 cases of elder abuse are reported

There are seven main types of elder abuse, though the specifics of each case can vary significantly. 

The 7 Primary Categories of Elder Abuse

Learning these can help you to recognize elder abuse when it’s happening and how to avoid it in the first place.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can encompass a range of hostile actions, such as hitting, kicking, burning, choking, or other types of behaviors which may lead to impairment or pain, injury, and bodily harm. The most straightforward way of recognizing physical abuse of an elderly friend or loved one is visible marks, including bruises, cuts, new mobility limitations. 

Many nursing homes witness employees exploiting the aged residents out of frustration or financial purposes. Here, one can seek the involvement of a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer to escape humiliation while punishing the culprit. Forcible restraint is also considered a type of physical abuse that may be harder to identify. Therefore, it is counted as a punishable crime. A common and difficult form of elderly abuse at the hands of caretakers for a loved one to recognize is forced feeding. Forcible restraint is also considered a type of physical abuse that may be harder to identify. 

Communicating as much as possible with your elderly friend or loved one and looking for unusual signs of heightened fear, anxiety, and other results of trauma are an important thing to do when checking up and making visits. 

Sexual Abuse

Physical limitations of the elderly become more pronounced with age and manifestations of illness. This can unfortunately make the elderly vulnerable to sexual abuse. In addition to horrific emotional and physical damage, sexual abuse can inflict on an elderly victim, it is also a crime that can be painfully difficult to identify or discuss. 

Psychological Abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse can take a variety of forms that go far beyond simple bad behavior. Psychological abuse includes repeated yelling, swearing, or name-calling. It can also take the form of repeated fear-inducing language and behavior, such as issuing threats or demonstrating controlling and manipulative behavior. 


Neglect is one of the most common forms of elder abuse, and it is, unfortunately, most commonly committed by a close family member. Often neglect will involve deprivation, whether nutritional, medicinal, or social. Some signs of neglect include rapid weight loss, unsanitary or hazardous living conditions, improper attire, and dehydration or preventable illness. 


Leaving an elderly person in one’s care is an enormous responsibility. Care workers or family members can abuse this responsibility by failing to watch over an elderly person when they need to. 

At its most extreme, leaving an elderly person on their own, temporarily or permanently, represents abandonment. This type of abuse can have serious consequences. Left on their own, elderly persons in need of supervision can accidentally hurt themselves or cause preventable accidents.

Financial Exploitation

Stealing or coercing the elderly out of their assets is a particularly nefarious form of abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable. Financial exploitation may occur through threats or coercion as well as scams and other forms of trickery. It can also involve repeated petty theft that takes advantage of confused or dementia-afflicted individuals.


Self-neglect that takes place under institutionalized supervision constitutes a form of abuse. A particularly tragic symptom of depression among the elderly may be self-neglect. If they live alone and are not able to clean and feed themselves, they will require supervision. Studies have found that elder self-neglect is higher amongst elderly individuals lacking family support. 

The National Center for Elder Abuse provides training and additional resources on recognizing, preventing, and overcoming elderly abuse.

If you have an elderly relative who has suffered any type of abuse, whether in a nursing home, hospital, rehabilitation center, or elsewhere, you should contact an attorney with a proven track record of successful elder abuse case results right away. 

You may want to visit this source if your loved one has been a victim of abuse and you’d like to read more information about filing a lawsuit. Holding those who are responsible for this crime accountable now can protect other seniors in the future.


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