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Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.


Physical abuse is physical force or violence that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.

Who are the perpetrators?

Perpetrators may be acquaintances, sons, daughters, grandchildren, or others. Physical abuse that is perpetrated by spouses or intimate partners in order to gain power and control over the victim is described in the section on domestic violence. Perpetrators are likely to be unmarried, to live with their victims, and to be unemployed. Some perpetrators have alcohol or substance abuse problems. Some are caregivers for those they abuse

Sexual abuse is any form of non-consensual physical contact. It includes rape, molestation, or any sexual conduct with a person who lacks the mental capacity to exercise consent.

Who are the perpetrators?

Perpetrators of sexual abuse include attendants, employees of care facilities, family members (including spouses), and others.

Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence or intimidation by an intimate partner, which is used to gain power and control.

Several categories of domestic violence against the elderly have been identified:

“Domestic violence grown old” is when domestic violence started earlier in life and persists into old age

“Late onset domestic violence” begins in old age. There may have been a strained relationship or emotional abuse earlier that got worse as the partners aged. When abuse begins or is exacerbated in old age, it is likely to be linked to:

  • Retirement
  • Disability
  • Changing roles of family members
  • Sexual changes
  • Some older people enter into abusive relationships late in lif

Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.

Cultural values and expectations play a significant role in how psychological abuse is manifested and how it affects its victims.

Elder financial abuse spans a broad spectrum of conduct, including:

  • Taking money or property
  • Forging an older person’s signature
  • Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence
  • Using the older person’s property or possessions without permission
  • Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise
  • Confidence crimes (“cons”) are the use of deception to gain victims’ confidence
  • Scams are fraudulent or deceptive acts
  • Fraud is the use of deception, trickery, false pretence, or dishonest acts or statements for financial gain
  • Telemarketing scams. Perpetrators call victims and use deception, scare tactics, or exaggerated claims to get them to send money. They may also make charges against victims’ credit cards without authorization

Neglect is the failure of caregivers to fulfill their responsibilities to provide needed care.

“Active” neglect refers to behavior that is willful – that is, the caregiver intentionally withholds care or necessities. The neglect may be motivated by financial gain (e.g. the caregiver stands to inherit) or reflect interpersonal conflicts

“Passive” neglect refers to situations in which the caregiver is unable to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities as a result of illness, disability, stress, ignorance, lack of maturity, or lack of resources


Abuse of the elderlyAbuse can occur anywhere:

  • Someone’s own home
  • Residential care
  • A carer’s home
  • Day care
  • A nursing home
  • Hospital

If a member of your family has been the victim of neglect or abuse at the hands of those in whom you entrusted their care we can help.

Case Study

Peter Garsden acted on behalf of Mr Bennett, a former distinguished veteran of World War II who was the victim of theft by three separate thieves employed by a company called Q Care Limited to provide care in his home between 2006 and 2008 when the client was aged 92 to 93. All the carers stole money off him, were caught on CCTV by his son and prosecuted successfully by the Police. It was difficult to calculate how much cash and belongings went missing exactly, but using our best calculations the total was likely to amount to at least £6,500. By the time the case came to be settled (just before Mr. Bennett’s death at the age of 96) the effect of the thefts had become quite severe in that it ruined Mr Bennett’s confidence, and affected his health. After much prevarication over various issues we were able to arrive at a settlement of £10,000, some of which was put towards one final holiday on the South coast.

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