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Elder Abuse Prevention

Guidance for information on elder abuse prevention needs and strategies that have worked for tribal communities.


Issued by: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

Issue Date: July 19, 2017

As the number of older adults increases nationally, communities face growing concerns about the abuse of their elders. Elder abuse can be difficult to spot, and it often happens at the hands of family caregivers. These resources can help tribes educate their communities about elder abuse and ensure their elders are honored and protected.

Overview of elder abuse

Elder abuse is mistreatment of elders that can include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial exploitation, like stealing an elder’s money
  • Spiritual abuse, such as taking away an elder’s ceremonial items

Learn more about the types and root causes of elder abuse and strategies for addressing it:

Needs in Indian Country

Respect for elders is a traditional tribal value. Like other communities, however, tribal communities experience elder abuse. Challenges common in Indian Country, such as historical trauma, loss of tradition, and high stress among family caregivers due to difficulty accessing support, may contribute to this issue.

Program examples and resources

These resources can help tribes educate their communities about elder abuse and build strong prevention programs to ensure their elders are honored and protected.

How to report suspected abuse

If you suspect an elder is being mistreated, contact Adult Protective Service in your state. If you think they might be in immediate danger, call 911. Learn more about reporting suspected abuse.

Program Profiles

These fact sheets highlight tribal programs that offer elder abuse prevention services.

More resources

Preventing elder abuse

Recognizing Elder Abuse

  • Webinar recording — Abuse of AI/AN Elders and Vulnerable Adults Improves the ability of LTSS program staff to identify signs of abuse and file reports with relevant investigating agencies
  • Information from the Administration on Community Living – What is Elder Abuse? Summarizes the types of elder abuse and how to identify the warning signs.
  • Webinar materials–Elder Justice in Indian Country: Discusses the signs of possible elder abuse and what to do if you see it

General resources

  • Tribal elder abuse codes: A collection of tribal codes on elder abuse from across Indian Country, compiled by the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative, which other tribal programs can use as models
  • National Center on Elder Abuse: Offers information about elder abuse prevention research, training, practices, news, and resources
  • National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative: Provides information to assist tribes in preventing elder abuse and creates culturally sensitive resources for tribes, health care providers, and law enforcement to help protect elders
  • Center for Rural Health: Connects rural and tribal communities with tools and information to promote the wellbeing of elders

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DISCLAIMER: The contents of this database lack the force and effect of law, except as authorized by law (including Medicare Advantage Rate Announcements and Advance Notices) or as specifically incorporated into a contract. The Department may not cite, use, or rely on any guidance that is not posted on the guidance repository, except to establish historical facts.