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Elder Abuse Prevention

Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?

Quick Answer

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), roughly 60% of abused seniors suffer at the hands of a family member. Whether at home or in a nursing facility, the cause of elder abuse often stems from a caretaker’s inability to handle their duties. Therefore, a key part of elder abuse prevention involves carefully choosing and supporting caregivers. Elder abuse prevention also involves keeping elders in the best physical, mental, and social health possible.

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Elder Abuse Risk Factors

Elder abuse — intentional harm inflicted on an older adult by someone with whom they have an expectation of trust — can take many forms. To help prevent abuse, loved ones must know what factors cause elder abuse or increase an older adult’s risk.

Caregiver Risk Factors

A caregiver’s mental state and life situation influence their likelihood of committing elder abuse. Caring for a dependent older adult can be a stressful and challenging responsibility — one nobody should take on without proper support and preparation.

A caregiver may have a higher risk of committing elder abuse if they:

  • Are highly financially or emotionally dependent on the elder
  • Care for an elder with poor physical or mental health
  • Have limited access to elder care services
  • Have negative beliefs about aging and elders
  • Have poor coping skills
  • Lack social support
  • Suffer from mental illness or substance abuse
  • Were not trained or properly prepared for caregiving responsibilities
  • Were exposed to abuse as a child

If a caregiver is already in a high-stress situation, taking on eldercare responsibilities may lead to physical outbursts, financial exploitation, neglect, and other forms of abuse.

Institutional Risk Factors

Nursing homes present unique risk factors to the adults in their care. Too often, nursing home operators understaff and overwork professional caregivers, leading to rushed care, exhaustion, frustration, and burnout.

Nursing home residents may be at higher risk for elder abuse if their facility has:

  • Careless hiring practices, such as not doing thorough background checks
  • High staff turnover rates
  • Little administrative oversight
  • Stressful working conditions
  • Staff who act coldly or negatively toward residents

Family members looking for a nursing home to care for their loved one should consider the red flags below as a step toward elder abuse prevention.

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How to Help Prevent Elder Abuse

Elder abuse cannot always be prevented, but concerned adults can take steps to reduce an older person’s risk of abuse.

Whether your elderly loved one resides at home or in a long-term care facility, simple actions — like encouraging social interaction and frequently checking in — can go a long way in keeping them safe.

Preventing Elder Abuse at Home

Elder abuse at home may occur for a variety of reasons, but it becomes even more likely if the elder’s caregiver is stressed, overworked, or untrustworthy.

For this reason, individuals may help prevent the abuse of an older adult living at home by reaching out to both the older adult and the caregiver.

Loved ones may help prevent elder abuse in the home by:

  • Keeping Elders Engaged in Their Communities

    Seniors with strong friendships and community involvement are less likely to be isolated or lonely — traits that increase an elder’s risk of being taken advantage of.

  • Supporting Primary Caregivers

    When multiple trusted adults share caregiving duties or provide emotional, financial, and other forms of support, it can greatly lower the stress of caring for an elderly loved one.

  • Keeping Elders Active

    Elderly people in poor physical health are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of. In addition, increased dependence may lead to more caretaker stress and burnout, raising the risk of elder abuse. Physically active seniors reduce their loss of mobility and increase overall health.

  • Protecting Elders From High-Risk Caregivers

    The family of an elder should refuse caregiving duties to people with a history of abuse or violence. All caregivers should be in good psychological, emotional, and financial condition.

  • Considering Financial Abuse

    Anyone looking after the well-being of an older adult should be cautious of caregivers or friends who need financial help. Elders should also be told to be wary of phone, internet, and email solicitations.

  • Finding Community Resources

    Community resources for the elderly and their loved ones can provide family caretakers with financial and emotional support, caregiving education, and breaks for personal time, reducing stress.

Preventing Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

Those with loved ones in nursing homes may not be able to watch over for an elder as closely as family caregivers, but they can still take steps to prevent abuse in nursing homes.

Loved ones may help prevent elder abuse in a nursing home by:

  • Being aware of the different types and signs of elder abuse
  • Calling their loved one regularly
  • Immediately bringing concerns about an elder’s care to staff or other authorities
  • Thoroughly researching a potential nursing home and checking for red flags
  • Visiting regularly

Loved ones should also look for nursing homes with traits and policies that tend to reduce the risk of elder abuse.

Nursing homes may help prevent elder abuse by:

  • Creating solid patient care policies and procedures
  • Fostering frequent visits from volunteers and social workers
  • Installing quality monitoring systems
  • Regularly training employees on elder abuse and neglect issues

Protect Your Loved Ones From Elder Abuse

Whether your loved one receives family care or lives in a nursing home, you can take many precautions to help keep them safe.

A staggering 1 in 10 seniors have fallen victim to abuse in the United States — and sadly, there is no way to completely prevent elder abuse.

If the worst does happen and elder abuse occurs:

  • Remove your loved one from the abusive situation immediately.
  • Take care of an elder’s physical and emotional needs. If you are concerned about the physical condition of your loved one, call 911.
  • Report the abuse through Adult Protective Services (APS), the police, or your local nursing home ombudsman.
  • Consider filing a lawsuit to help pay for medical bills, therapy, relocation costs, and other losses your loved one suffered from the abuse.

Elder abuse is devastating for victims and their loved ones, but you are not alone. To see if you may be entitled to compensation, start your free case review now.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team
Julie Rivers HeadshotReviewed by:Julie Rivers, MBA

Eldercare Advocate & Expert

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Julie Rivers is an eldercare advocate with over 15 years of dedicated service to victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Her journey in this field became deeply personal when she assumed the role of an unpaid caregiver during her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

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.

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  4. Elder Abuse and Neglect. (2019, June). Retrieved December 9, 2019, from
  5. National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.). Statistics and Data. Retrieved December 9, 2019, from
  6. World Health Organization. (2018, June 8). Elder abuse. Retrieved December 9, 2019, from