Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. The specificity of laws varies from state to state, but broadly defined, abuse may be:
- Physical Abuse - Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
- Emotional Abuse - Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
- Sexual Abuse - Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
- Exploitation - Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.
- Neglect - Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
- Self Neglect - Characterized as the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his/her own health or safety and generally manifests itself by failure to provide himself/herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication (when indicated), and safety precautions.
- Abandonment - The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Elder abuse can affect people of all ethnic backgrounds and social status and can affect both men and women.