Elder Abuse on the Rise

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 18 March 2009

It’s not the easiest topic to think about, but it’s one that cannot be avoided. Elder abuse is becoming all too common, and sadly, I’m sure that the cases we hear about are just the tip of the iceberg.

On March 11th In Huntington Beach, CA, the live-in caretaker of an 84-year-old woman was charged with financial elder abuse, grand theft, identity theft, vehicle theft, fraud and forgery. At a nursing facility in Pittsburgh, PA, a direct care worker was recently fined for hitting and verbally abusing a patient with dementia over an extended period of time. Three out of five cases of elder abuse occur in a senior’s own home at the hands of family members, according to data from the National Association of Adult Protective Services Administrators. It is truly frightening to think about the scores of elders who are being abused every day, whether it’s physical, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual – or all of the above.

Caregiver stress may lead to abuse. As solidified by the statistic above, it is not always a hardened criminal who preys on a vulnerable elder. Sometimes the stress of caregiving can lead to abusive situations, in which case both the victim and the abuser are in need of help.

Neglect is another form of abuse that happens quite often among seniors. In long-term care facilities, high turnover rates and staffing shortages (coupled with the lack of training, support, and resources) create the perfect storm for neglect or other types of abuse to occur.

Financial exploitation also runs rampant in these care settings. I have lost count of how many times I heard about residents missing money during my years of work in senior living facilities. In one community, dozens of residents lost thousands in a string of incidents; it took over a year to “catch” all of the employees involved.

Alzheimer’s and other types of dementias could cause the individual suffering from the disease to become abusive to a spouse, other family members, or a professional caregiver. These unique cases require specialized education, sensitivity, and hands-on crisis intervention skills.

Awareness is important, even if you’re not a caregiver for an elder. Know the warning signs. Identify who to call if you suspect abuse. Familiarize yourself with the state and local resources available to support at-risk elders. If you have an elderly neighbor who lives alone or has home care, check on him now and then. Even if your neighbor has a family member living at home, remember that statistic about family abuse and keep an eye out.

For more information, visit:

NCEA (National Center on Elder Abuse)



- Michelle Seitzer

There are 3 Comments about this post

  1. Kaye says,

    Good info for caregivers. I just tweeted it as well :) Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on such a serious and important subject.


    on 27 March 2009 / 12:32 AM

  2. Michelle says,

    Thanks for your comment, Kaye. I appreciate your feedback, and for the “tweet”!


    on 27 March 2009 / 5:15 PM

  3. Takuya says,

    I bveliee most would prefere to be at home if at all possible.My mom would have for sure…..there wasn’t any chance of getting better…..she needed dialysis though. Lord knows what the fee for that was but it was 300 each way for an ambulance….every other day. It would have been better if it was from her home or had a mobile unit brought in but this was from a home as well……just the trip destroyed her. I got her moved to another home where they had dialysis….and she died after the first treatment there. It was floors and even the move through elevators and such was too much. She was so ill…..the home was so noisy and it was so stressful for her. She could barely eat and with all the medications she was on…certain things made her ill and changed the taste of foods…..you either ate what they brought or you didn’t eat. Needless to say…..she quit eating. She couldn’t feed herself and after the staff passed the food out…..then they’d come back and try and feed her ice cold food. In a home it’s close to impossible to please everyone so I don’t blame them…..I just know at home It would have been so much easier to switch the lime jello for cherry without a major production and a 45 minute wait.In her case…..she knew it was over….last days and no you can’t have another 7-up because of diet restrictions? I don’t want someone telling me what I can and cannot do or have the last period of my life when I know I’m dying and there’s no hope. They seem to have lost the importance of choicesShe was paying top dollar and not able to participate in any of the activities. She couldn’t turn her TV on and off or change channels.Turn off lights or shut the door. The massive amount of money for her care would have better well spent making her final days more to her comfort and alot less expensive at home. We were trying to find out about it and see what we could do…but she died and no-one gave us jack for information on anything to do with home care to help us speed up the process at all.Doris….70′s…Illinois…my mom…..severe rheumatoid arthritis and kidney failure.


    on 07 February 2012 / 3:57 AM


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