What is Elder Abuse?

posted on June 4, 2012

As the number of people 65 years and over increase in the United States, so does the incidence of elder abuse. Yet, elder abuse is often ignored, seldom spoken about, and rarely reported. It is important we all become more aware of the types of elder abuse in order to recognize it early on to prevent or stop it from happening1:

  • Types of Elder Abuse

  • Financial Exploitation – Includes forging signatures on checks and cashing them, improperly using powers of attorney, misusing or stealing money or possessions and deceiving seniors into signing legal documents – like wills and deeds. Warning signs include: abrupt changes in a will or other documents, unexplained disappearances of valuable possessions, the senior giving expensive gifts to others, unpaid bills despite adequate finances, and missing bank or credit card statements

  • Physical Abuse – Defined as inflicting pain or injuries or withholding treatment or medication to the senior so that their disabilities and ailments will cause them pain. Warning signs include: bruising (in various stages of healing), black eyes, bone fractures, open cuts, burns, sprains and injuries that reflect the outline of an object (belt, hand, rope, etc.)

  • Emotional Abuse – Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts. This may involve someone constantly harassing or threatening to harm them.

  • Sexual Abuse – Non-consensual intimate contact of any kind.

The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Elder Abuse Justice Unit (EAJU) was created in 2008 to enhance prosecution, awareness, and prevention of elder abuse. Additionally, EAJU attorneys coordinate their efforts with outside agencies, including the City and County of Honolulu’s Elderly Affairs Division and the Adult Protective Service program under the State Department of Human Services.

If you suspect elder abuse is happening to you or someone you love, contact the State of Hawaii Adult Protective Services at (808) 832-5115. They have a full time staff of investigators and social workers that can investigate suspected incidents of elder abuse.

1Information is courtesy of the City and County of Honolulu’s Elderly Affairs Division.

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