Identifying Suspected Elder Abuse


Elder abuse is a concern for all practitioners who care for elderly patients. Here, quick reference to identify suspected elder abuse.

The elderly population is particularly susceptable to exploitation, violence, and mistreatment.1 A major public health issue, elder abuse consists of behaviors toward the elderly that are malignant and damaging. The tipsheet below is for quick reference to identify suspected elder abuse.


Types of elder abuse

■ Physical abuse (use of force resulting in pain, bruises, injury, or other impairment)

■ Sexual abuse (non-consensual physical contact that is sexual in nature, rape, assault, exposure, nudity, etc)

■ Emotional/psychological abuse (verbal and/or non-verbal aggression that results in distress of the victim)

Elder abuse risk factors

■ Clinical

     Short-term memory impairment
     Physical dependence, manifested by deficits in activities of daily living
     Substance abuse (by patient or caregiver)

■ Situational

     Social isolation
     Poor social functioning
     Recent bereavement, especially loss of partner 

For more on this topic, please see "Elder Abuse," by Stephen L. Read, MD, from which this Tipsheet was adapted.

For more Tipsheets, please click here.


American Medical Association. Action of the AMA House of Delegates 2008 Annual Meeting: Report of the Council on Science and Public Health. Accessed July 19, 2013.

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