What Is the Most Common Type of Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse victim

Being abused can happen to anyone regardless of their race, sex, age, ethnic or cultural background, or religion. However, elder abuse is a growing problem as people are living longer. Abuse can occur in any setting, such as one’s home or workplace, and from any individual, including strangers, family, friends, coworkers, employers, caregivers, and healthcare providers. 

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse refers to those individuals who are 60 years or older that are being abused. There are different types of elder abuse, including:

  • Verbal Abuse – Verbal abuse occurs when someone uses hateful, hurtful, threatening, or derogatory language when speaking to an elderly person. 
  • Psychological or Emotional Abuse – This type of abuse can include certain types of verbal abuse. It also includes ignoring the older person’s psychological and emotional needs, such as preventing them from socializing with their friends. 
  • Financial Abuse – The elderly often fall victim to financial abuse where money and valuables are stolen or obtained fraudulently without their permission. However, financial abuse can include being overcharged for goods and services, having one’s insurance billed for services not received, etc.  
  • Financial Neglect – Financial neglect is when someone is not getting the assistance they need to meet their financial responsibilities even though they have the resources to pay their bills and expenses. 
  • Financial Exploitation – Exploitation can occur when someone is mismanaging, misusing, or using money, property, assets, or valuables without the consent of the elderly person or by false pretenses. 
  • Physical Abuse – Physical abuse is causing bodily harm to another by hitting, slapping, pushing, or other violent means. It also includes retraining someone, such as locking them in their bedroom or tying them to a bed. 
  • Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse is not just committing sexual acts on a person without their consent. Forcing someone to watch sexual acts or using objects on them in a sexual manner is also considered sexual abuse. 
  • Abandonment – Abandoning a person is leaving them on their own without ensuring they will receive the care they need. 
  • Neglect – Neglect occurs when someone chooses to ignore the needs of another, such as assisting with personal hygiene, not providing them with medications or food, or taking them to doctor’s appointments. 

What is the most common type of elder abuse?

According to the World Health Organization, the most common type of elder abuse is psychological or emotional abuse in at-home and institutional settings. The second most common type of elder abuse in at-home settings was financial abuse, followed by neglect. Sexual abuse in at-home settings was only reported 0.9 percent of the time. 

In institutional settings, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the second most common type of elder abuse was physical abuse. This was followed by neglect, then financial abuse, with sexual abuse being reported 2.6 percent of the time. 

However, the extent of the problem is underreported. Many elderly people never report elder abuse because they are afraid if they tell someone, they will not be believed, or they will not get the help they need to stop the abuse. 

From data collected by the CDC from 2002 to 2016, over 643,000 older adults were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal injuries from being physically abused. There were also another 19,000 cases where the physical abuse resulted in death.

Where does most elder abuse occur?

The rates of elder abuse tend to be higher in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other institutional settings. This is because senior healthcare providers are often overworked and overstressed. Unfortunately, when a healthcare provider snaps, the elderly are the ones that suffer and receive the brunt of their frustrations. 

Who is most likely to abuse the elderly?

While most reported elder abuse cases occur in institutional settings, family members are the most likely to abuse the elderly. Additionally, senior women are more likely to be abused than senior men. Furthermore, other common traits associated with elder abuse by a family member include:

  • They are the victim’s spouse, adult child, or adult grandchild
  • They are male, although females also commit elder abuse
  • The person is experiencing financial, mental health, or physical health issues
  • The person is struggling with alcohol or substance use problems

What happens if you are accused of elder abuse?

Adult Protective Services will investigate the claim if you are accused of elder abuse. If their investigation uncovers evidence to support the abuse, you will face criminal charges. 

How do you report elder abuse?

If you suspect elder abuse, it is essential to report it. Do not assume someone else has already reported it, as numerous cases of elder abuse go unreported each year. By reporting the suspected abuse, you are not required to prove it is occurring. 

Rather, you are notifying the proper authorities of your concerns so they can conduct a wellness check and investigate the matter. To file a claim, you would want to contact your state’s Department of Family Services or Adult Protective Services. 

For example, in Wyoming, you can file a claim with a caseworker 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-457-3659. However, for life-threatening situations, you can call 911 and report the abuse to your local law enforcement agency. 

What is the penalty for elder abuse?

The penalties one could face for elder abuse if they are convicted and found guilty of a criminal offense could include:

  • Hefty fines
  • Extensive jail time
  • Probation
  • Loss of professional licenses

The victim also has the right to file a claim against the responsible party in civil court as a personal injury lawsuit. 

Seeking Justice for Elder Abuse Victims

If you or your loved one has suffered elder abuse, learn more about your legal rights and potential compensation by scheduling a free consultation with the elder abuse lawyers at Robert P. Schuster, P.C. 


World Health Organization. Abuse of Older People. Retrieved 22 June 2022. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevent. Fast Facts: Preventing Elders Abuse. Retrieved 22 June 2022. 

National Center on Elder Abuse. Research, Statistics, and Data. Retrieved 22 June 2022.