Types of Abuse

Definitions
Federal definitions of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation appeared for the first time in the 1987 Amendments to the Older Americans Act. These definitions were provided in the law only as guidelines for identifying the problems and not for enforcement purposes.

Currently, state laws define elder abuse, and state definitions vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another in terms of what constitutes the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly. Broadly defined, however, there are three basic categories of elder abuse:
  • Domestic elder abuse
  • Institutional elder abuse
  • Self-neglect or self-abuse
In most cases, state statutes addressing elder abuse provide the definitions of these different categories of elder abuse, with varying degrees of specificity. Domestic and institutional elder abuse may be further categorized as follows:

Physical Abuse
Defined as the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. It may include such acts of violence as striking (with or without an object), hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning. In addition, it may also include the inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment.

Sexual Abuse
Defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly or disabled person or with any person incapable of giving consent. It includes but is not limited to unwanted touching, all types of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, and sexually explicit photographing.

Emotional Or Psychological Abuse
Defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. Emotional / psychological abuse includes but is not limited to verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. In addition, treating an older person like an infant; isolating an elderly person from his/her family, friends, or regular activities; giving an older person the silent treatment; and enforced social isolation are examples of this type of abuse.
Neglect
Defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an elder. Neglect may also include failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder (e.g., pay for necessary home care services) or the failure on the part of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care.

Neglect typically means the refusal or failure to provide an elderly person with such life necessities as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, personal safety, and other essentials included in an implied or agreed-upon responsibility to an elder.

Exploitation
Defined as misusing the resources of an elderly or disabled person for personal or monetary benefit. This includes taking Social Security or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) checks, abusing a joint checking account, and taking property and other resources.