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Types of Elder Abuse

Understanding Elder Abuse Types

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According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), about 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 or older have suffered from at least one type of elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) breaks elder abuse down into 7 different types. Knowing the types of elder abuse can help you protect older adults — especially those living in nursing homes.

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The 7 Different Types of Elder Abuse

When someone with power over an elderly person intentionally harms them or puts them at risk of harm, their actions — or lack of action — are considered elder abuse. Elder abuse isn’t just one action or inaction and it can take many forms.

The 7 types of elder abuse are:

  1. Neglect
  2. Physical abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Abandonment
  5. Emotional or psychological abuse
  6. Financial abuse
  7. Self-neglect

All types of elder abuse can lead to devastating consequences, including physical and/or emotional harm and even death.

elderly woman looking to the side

It is key for older people and their loved ones to know about all elder abuse types. They can use this knowledge to prevent abuse from happening or stop it before severe harm occurs.

Take action if you or a loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home. Get started with a free case review.

Quick Facts About Elder Abuse Types

  • The types of elder abuse go beyond physical and emotional harm. Elders can suffer from sexual assaults, financial exploitation, abandonment, and more.
  • Most types of elder abuse are committed by trusted individuals, like family or nursing home staff.
  • Elders can sometimes mistreat themselves through self-neglect.
  • According to the NCOA, elders are more likely to self-report financial exploitation than emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect.
  • Psychological abuse is the most common type of elder abuse, according to the NCEA.
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Physical Elder Abuse

Physical elder abuse is the intentional use of force against an elderly person. It includes hitting, shoving, kicking, or physically restraining an older adult.

Signs of physical elder abuse include:

  • Cuts or scrapes
  • Broken bones
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Dislocated joints
  • Head injuries
  • Sprains

There are also signs beyond the injuries themselves that could mean an older person has suffered from physical abuse.

These signs include: 

  • A pattern of hospitalization for the same or similar injuries
  • Delayed medical care for an injury
  • Poor explanations for the elder’s injury from care providers
  • Trips to different emergency rooms (to possibly avoid suspicion)

If an older person you love has been injured, make sure to ask caregivers how the injury happened and if it’s being treated promptly. Any uncertainty could mean that the injury stems from physical abuse.

Were You or a Loved One Abused or Neglected?
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While many elders face health problems as they age, they should never have to suffer from abuse or neglect. Take this quiz to help you identify possible signs of nursing home abuse and learn about next steps.

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Sexual Elder Abuse

Elder sexual abuse is forced or non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older adult. This includes sexual interactions with elders with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive disabilities that prevent them from giving consent.

Warning signs of elder sexual abuse include: 

  • Bleeding from the anus or genitals
  • Bruised genitals or inner thighs
  • New sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs/STIs)
  • Pain in the anus or genitals
  • Pelvic injuries
  • Problems walking or sitting

Elders can be sexually abused by anyone, including nursing home staff, residents, in-home caretakers, friends, and family members.

We can help if your loved one was abused or neglected in a nursing home. Call (855) 264-6310 to get started. Financial compensation may be available.

Elder Neglect

Elder neglect happens when a caregiver fails to protect an older adult from harm, resulting in serious injuries or illnesses.

Cases of elder and nursing home neglect are not honest accidents. Rather, they are the result of carelessness or a lack of regard for an older person’s health.

Signs of elder neglect include:

  • Dehydration and/or malnutrition
  • Inadequate or unclean clothing
  • Lack of food in the home/long-term care facility
  • Lack of needed medical aids
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Unclean or unsafe home/long-term care facility
  • Unpaid bills
  • Untreated infections or injuries
  • Weight loss

Neglect can lead to serious health problems, including bedsores, sepsis, and even death. Unfortunately, neglect a particularly high risk in assisted living facilities with staffing issues.

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Elder Self-Neglect

Self-neglect happens when an elderly person is no longer able to meet their basic daily needs, and they suffer as a result.

An older person may be suffering from self-neglect if they can’t:

  • Drink or feed themselves without help
  • Dress themselves
  • Maintain basic hygiene
  • Maintain their home
  • Manage financial affairs
  • Properly address their medical needs

Many older adults struggle with letting go of their independence or acknowledging that they may not be able to care for themselves.

However, if an older person has caregivers or lives in a nursing home, then self-neglect should not be occurring. In these cases, a caregiver may be committing neglect.

Elder Abandonment

Sometimes paired with neglect, elder abandonment happens when someone who cares for an older person intentionally deserts them.

The former caretaker may leave the elder at a hospital, nursing home, or another care facility without any formal arrangement, or with relatives who did not agree to be caregivers.

Someone may be the victim of elder abandonment if they are alone and:

  • Appear confused, lost, or scared
  • Have poor hygiene
  • Seem frail, malnourished, or dehydrated

Regardless of the situation, elder abandonment can lead to a great deal of confusion and pain — and put their physical health at risk.

Emotional Elder Abuse

An older man in a wheelchair sits outsidePsychological and emotional abuse are intentional acts that inflict mental pain, fear, or distress on an elder.

Emotional abuse can take many forms. For example, caregivers may belittle elders, call them names, or threaten them. But it’s not just name-calling – caregivers may even cut off older people from loved ones or resources.

Signs of emotional and psychological abuse in elders include:

  • Appearing depressed, withdrawn, or scared
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Different eating or sleeping patterns
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden changes in behavior/personality

Emotional and psychological changes can often go hand-in-hand with other types of elder abuse, such as physical harm or neglect. This means it’s key to check on your loved one’s overall health if you notice signs of emotional abuse.

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Financial Elder Abuse

Elder financial abuse is the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources. Nursing home staff, family, or even strangers can all commit elder financial abuse.

Warning signs of elder financial abuse include:

  • A pattern of missing belongings or property
  • An elderly person who does not know or understand their own financial situation
  • Canceled checks or bank statements that go to someone other than the elder
  • Changes to an older person’s power of attorney or bank accounts
  • Eviction notices
  • Evidence of unpaid bills
  • Someone showing unusual interest in how much money an elder is spending
  • Withdrawals the elder could not have made

According to the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, financial abuse costs elders an estimated $2.9 billion every year. It is the most commonly self-reported type of elder abuse.

What to Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can be committed by anyone: friends, family, care staff, or strangers. Because of this, it’s important to keep a close eye on your loved one’s well-being and take action if you think any type of elder abuse is occurring.

If you suspect elder abuse: 

  • Call 911 in an emergency: If you are worried that an elder is in immediate danger, call the police or 911.
  • Check in with your loved one: Some elders may be hesitant or scared to bring up their abuse experience, but they may confide in you with gentle prompting.
  • Keep in regular contact with your loved one: Elders who are socially isolated are at a higher risk of abuse.
  • Take accusations seriously: Too many people neglect to believe elders when they tell loved ones about their abuse. Do not take elder abuse accusations lightly — make sure you get your older loved one the help they need.
  • Use available resources: Report abuse or neglect to a local Adult Protective Services (APS) office, a nursing home ombudsman, or the police.

Discovering that someone you love is the victim of abuse can be devastating, especially when they are harmed by someone they trusted. All forms of elder mistreatment and abuse deserve to be taken seriously and addressed quickly.

Although there is no way to reverse the suffering elder abuse causes, seeking compensation through a nursing home abuse lawsuit can help you afford medical treatment that’s needed to start the healing process.

Nursing home compensation can help with:

  • Health care bills
  • Mental health counseling
  • Costs of moving a loved one to a safer place

Pursuing a lawsuit can also allow you to hold the abusers financially responsible for the harm they’ve caused.

If your loved one has been abused or neglected, seek justice and compensation. Get your free case review now to start the process.

FAQs on Types of Elderly Abuse

What are the 7 types of elder abuse?

The 7 most common types of elderly abuse include physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, self-neglect, and abandonment.

Any of these elder abuse types can be devastating to older people and their families.

What is classified as elderly abuse?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that elder abuse is “an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.”

Under this definition, many actions (including physical violence, verbal threats, or a lack of care) could be considered types of elder abuse.

Don’t wait: if you think your loved one has suffered from any type of elder abuse, contact our team. We can help you get financial aid for your suffering.

What is the most frequently reported type of elder abuse?

Emotional abuse is the most common type of elder abuse, according to data from the World Health organization (WHO).

The WHO found that one out of three of nursing home residents or their families reported cases of emotional nursing home abuse.

Nearly one in three nursing home staff also admitted to emotionally abusing residents.

How can types of elder abuse be prevented?

The many types of elder abuse can be prevented in different ways. For example, the CDC recommends checking in with older people — especially if other family members or loved ones may not live close by.

Further, both the WHO and CDC recommend reporting possible cases of elder or nursing home abuse to senior justice hotlines. These include 911, the phone number for your local APS office, and more.

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.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, May 28). Elder Abuse: Definitions. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 02). Preventing elder abuse. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from
  3. MetLife Mature Market Institute. (June 2011). The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders [PDF file]. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from
  4. National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.). How to Answer Those Tough Questions about Elder Abuse [PDF file]. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from
  5. National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.). Research statistics and data. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from
  6. National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.). Types of Abuse. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from
  7. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2014, September 11). How do I report elder abuse or abuse of an older person or senior? Retrieved November 13, 2019, from
  8. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Elder abuse. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from