The Three Faces of Elder Abuse

By Jeff Scribner

Each day over 10,000 baby-boomers turn 65. Of those who reach this milestone, 1 in 5 will be the victim of elder abuse. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. Two thirds of those are adult children or spouses. 

The three major types of elder abuse are financial abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse.

Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse and fraud cost older Americans $36.5 billion per year (National Center on Elder Abuse Website).  A study conducted by Investor Protection Trust found that nearly one in five Americans over the age of 65 has been a victim of financial fraud. These victims on average experienced a $30,000 loss.

The National Center on Elder Abuse reported an estimated 21,427 substantiated cases of financial or material exploitation of an older adult. This accounts for approximately one-third of all substantiated elder abuse cases, including physical and sexual abuse and neglect. In addition, the NCEA estimated that 20 percent of elder abuse victims were victims of financial exploitation.

Most elderly victims do not report fraud because they feel ashamed, or they fear others will think they cannot care for themselves, which may cause placement in a nursing home or long-term care facility. Many victims of financial exploitation know their offender and may feel protective of them. These victims may want the behavior to end and recover their losses; however, they do not want the offender punished. In addition, many of the victims believe they are at least partially to blame.

Physical Abuse

Almost 10 million adults age 65 and older receive care at home or in residential care settings other than nursing homes. This number is projected to increase dramatically as the 65-plus population rises from 40 million today to more than 70 million in 2030 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014).

Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated. (National Council on Aging, Website).

One of the leading causes of maltreatment of seniors is inadequate supervision. Less than half of the states in the U.S. require home-care agencies to conduct any type of  training for their employees. It is even worse concerning periodic in-home reviews to ensure paid caregivers are doing their jobs and  less than 16 states have this requirement.

Several states require criminal background checks of paid caregivers; however, a very big loophole is that they only require a background screening in the state they are going to be employed. There is a failure to require employers to screen employees in other states where they may have lived or worked.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that less than a third of home-care agencies screened their employees for illegal drug use.

Emotional Abuse

Many elderly persons feel detached from their family, friends, or their community for numerous reasons. Some feel alone due to their physical health which may limit their mobility. While others may feel psychologically isolated because they perceive themselves as a burden or not wanted by their family and/or friends.

The feeling of isolation does not happen overnight. It usually takes place over time due to a decreased change in physical and/or mental health. In addition, the loss of a spouse or loved one can also can increase the feeling of isolation. 

Emotional support is very important to older Americans.

  • 17% of adults aged 65 and older are isolated.
  • 26% increase risk of death due to subjective feeling of loneliness.
  • 51% of the people over the age of 75 live alone.

Isolation is a growing health concern.

  • More than 8 million adults age 50 and older are affected by isolation.
  • The health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

In China, there is a law that requires families to take care of anyone in their immediate family over the age of 60. While in the United States we have no such law per se, we as a society should care for our elders because in the end not doing so is not an option! Remember, the only thing that separates a millennial from a baby boomer is time.

Older adults have been there for us, now it’s our turn to be there for them. A recent New York  State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study revealed that for every case of  elder abuse reported approximately 24 cases go undetected. Based on this study and the findings of numerous other studies, elder abuse is a much bigger problem than what is being reported.

What is being done to combat this growing issue?

On a national level the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was enacted (March 23, 2010) establishing for the first time the Elder Justice Act, which authorized targeted federal funds to be used to fight elder abuse. This piece of legislation established a national leadership role within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), while at the same time rendering grants and other finical resources to the Medicare and Medicaid programs to increase prevention efforts.

In the private sector, there are hundreds of entities that are providing education, funding, volunteers and other resources in order to stem the tide of elder abuse. AARP, the American Society on Aging (ASA), and the National Center on Elder Abuse are just a few organizations that provide a myriad of resources regarding elder abuse.

The time has come for everyone to take a role in this important battle. Do not wait to join the fight, because if society decides not get involved then we will all be exposed to the three faces of elder abuse. was founded by Jeffrey Scribner, a former Special Agent responsible for investigating patient abuse, healthcare fraud and financial crimes effecting the elder population. Mr. Scribner’s vision is to provide physical, financial and emotional support for older Americans in their respective communities. For more information contact Jeff Scribner at or 215-208-0585