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The Fast-Growing Crime of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse has grown significantly as the American population has aged. In fact, it is projected that elder abuse will be the fastest-growing crime through 2025. Elder abuse can lead to serious injuries or loss of savings due to financial scams. Senior citizens and their loved ones must be vigilant and watch for any signs of elder abuse.

Understanding Elder Abuse and Neglect

Millions of seniors are at risk of elder abuse — and that number continues to rise. Elder abuse involves someone harming a senior citizen through physical injury, financial scams, or other means.

Elder abuse is more common than many Americans may realize. With the growing number of seniors in America, officials expect elder abuse to become a more prominent crime.

Here are some notable statistics on elder abuse:

  • An estimated $36.5 Billion is lost to elder abuse each year.
  • Elder abuse victims have one-third greater odds of dying earlier than expected, according to the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.
  • One in ten elders are victims of abuse, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Only one in fourteen elder abuse cases is reported.

Sadly, the lack of reporting makes it harder for law enforcement and regulatory agencies to track and curb elder abuse.

Thankfully, law enforcement and government agencies are taking the problem of elder abuse more seriously, especially with the higher mortality rates and the significant financial cost.

Number of Elder Abuse Crimes on Par With Domestic and Child Abuse Cases

Child abuse is a much more well-known phenomenon than elder abuse. But the amount of elder abuse cases each year — 5 million — is actually equal to the combined total of child abuse and domestic violence cases.

Did You Know

Elder abuse crimes are concentrated in areas with high numbers of senior citizens, meaning that counties with many assisted living facilities or nursing homes may have more cases.

Yet tracking the number of elder abuse cases remains an issue. Elders may not want to admit that they have been abused or exploited — especially if they put their trust in nursing home staff members or other caregivers.

Further, some elders who do want to report have cognitive issues or problems communicating. This is why family members need to step up and report possible nursing home abuse signs on behalf of their loved ones.

Elder Financial Abuse Increasingly More Common

In particular, elder financial abuse is becoming a widespread problem. Through financial abuse, bad actors can drain bank accounts or even sell prized possessions without a senior’s knowledge. Some seniors have even lost their homes to elder financial abuse.

Common types of elder financial abuse include:

  • Charitable donations scams
  • Investment scams
  • Sweepstakes scams

Unfortunately, it isn’t always strangers who commit financial abuse. Friends and even family members have been known to steal money from elders or to scam them into granting power of attorney.

Detective Wendy Zolkowski of the Oak Ridge Police Department in Tennessee has given several talks on how to recognize elder financial abuse and act when the signs are present.

Zolkowski recommends elders have a code word that they use with family and friends when speaking over the telephone. That way, they can identify scammers who won’t know the code word — and who may be posing as loved ones asking for money.

Zolkowski also encourages people to report suspected elder abuse immediately so that authorities can investigate possible wrongdoing.

How to Take Action Against Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is expected to be the fastest-growing crime of the next five years, according to Zolkowski. However, with more law enforcement investigations and better regulatory oversight, this can change.

For example, banks and credit card companies are increasingly looking for ways to identify and prevent fraud. Nursing homes are facing more stringent reporting requirements, which makes it more likely that law enforcement will catch bad actors.

Local and state governments are also passing new nursing home abuse laws to protect vulnerable seniors.

There is much work to be done, but there is reason to believe that the coming growth of elder abuse cases can be reduced.

If you believe that your loved one is suffering from elder abuse or neglect, be sure to report it to your local authorities as soon as possible. If you delay, your loved one’s health or financial savings could be put in even greater danger.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

  1. Krause, Carolyn. “Elder Abuse: 'Fastest Growing Crime in next Five Years'.” Oakridger, Oakridger - Oak Ridge, TN, 31 Jan. 2020,