Ron Freitas
District Attorney

Quality of Life
Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse

Elder Abuse is a crime!Statistics uncover a frightening picture of elder abuse in this country. One of every 20 elderly people will be a victim of neglect or physical, psychological or financial abuse this year. The problem may get worse as the number of elderly Americans increases. People over age 65 will number about 95 million by the year 2060. They will be a big part of the country's population -- almost one sixth of the total. Those aged 85 years or older are the fastest growing group.

As the elderly population multiplies, so will the incidence of elder abuse if we don't take action. We must recognize the seriousness of the problem and take steps to prevent it.

Types of Elder Abuse

There are four general types of elder abuse:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Financial (Fiduciary) Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse
  • Neglect

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the infliction of harm or injury on a dependent or elder adult person by someone who stands in a position of trust, or who has care or custody of the elder or dependent person. Physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain or impairment may include, but is not limited to:

  • Beating
  • Burning
  • Force-feeding
  • Hitting
  • Physical restraint
  • Punishment
  • Sexual assault
  • Shaking
  • Slapping
  • Unwarranted administration of drugs

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is using the elder's money or assets contrary to the elder's wishes, needs, or best interests, or for the abuser's personal gain. It may also be accomplished by undue influence. Undue influence is when a person in a position of trust, coerces a vulnerable elder into giving away or loaning money or property, either directly, or through a trust, marriage, inheritance, or adoption.

Examples of Financial Abuse

  • Taking money or other items from the home, bank or security accounts
  • Selling or transferring the elder's property
  • Failing to provide agreed upon services to the elder, such as care giving, home or vehicle repair, or financial management
  • Using the elder's credit card for unauthorized purchases or using the elder's name or credit to open new accounts
  • Misusing the elder's Power of Attorney
  • Refusing to return money or assets borrowed from the elder as agreed upon, or when requested
  • Creating or changing living trusts for the benefit of the abuser; or changing the elder's will or other inheritance so the abuser benefits

Examples of Undue Influence

  • Promising the elder to take care of him/her for the rest of the elder's life
  • Lying to the elder, that no one else cares about him/her
  • Isolating the elder from social contact with other family members, friends and society
  • Intercepting the elder's mail, phone calls, and visitors
  • Worrying the elder with the fear of losing his/her house and being placed in a nursing home
  • Manipulating the elder's food intake or medication so he/she becomes weak and compliant
  • Threatening the elder with harm, neglect, or abandonment if he/she doesn't agree to obey the abuser

Psychological/Emotional Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse is the infliction of mental anguish by using language that is demanding, cruel, insulting or causes concern for one's safety


Neglect occurs when a caregiver denies an elder or dependent adult food, medication, proper clothing or hygiene, or medical attention. Neglect includes, but is not limited to:

  • Failure to assist with personal hygiene
  • Failure to provide clothing and shelter
  • Failure to provide medical care

Indicators of emotional abuse or neglect:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Embarrassment
  • Fearfulness
  • Hesitates to speak freely or openly
  • Implausible explanations for things
  • Isolation from family, friends, regular activity, social contact
  • Intimidation
  • Poor eye-contact
  • Verbal assaults
  • Withdrawn

Who Can Be An Abuser?

  • Family Members
  • Caretakers – paid or volunteer
  • Strangers met in public, over the phone, or those who come to the door
  • Professionals hired by the elder (accountants, bankers, lawyers, doctors)