Elder Abuse

What is Elder Abuse?

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse definitions in state law vary considerably from state to state in terms of what constitutes abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly. However, broadly speaking it can involve physical violence, psychological abuse, isolation, abandonment, abduction, false imprisonment or a caregiver’s neglect.

Domestic elder-abuse generally refers to any of several forms of maltreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder (a spouse, a sibling, a child, a friend, or a caregiver), that occur in the elder’s home, or in the home of a caregiver.

Institutional abuse, on the other hand, generally refers to any of the above-mentioned forms of abuse that occur in residential facilities for older persons (e.g., nursing homes, foster homes, group homes, board and care facilities). Perpetrators of institutional abuse usually are persons who have a legal or contractual obligation to provide elder victims with care and protection (e.g., paid caregivers, staff, professionals).

Elder-Abuse Statistics

The following information is taken from a fact sheet produced by the U.S. Administration on Aging.


Prevalence refers to the total number of people who have experienced abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a specified time period.

According to available estimates, between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.

Estimates of the frequency of elder abuse range from 2% to 10% based on various sampling, survey methods, and case definitions.

Data on elder-abuse in domestic settings suggest that 1 in 14 incidents, excluding incidents of self-neglect, come to the attention of authorities.

Estimates put the overall reporting of financial exploitation at only 1 in 25 cases, suggesting that there may be at least 5 million financial abuse victims each year.

It is estimated that for every one case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or selfneglect reported to authorities, about five more go unreported.


Incidence refers to the number of new cases identified or reported at a given point in time, usually one year.

In 1996, nearly 450,000 adults aged 60+ were abused and/or neglected in domestic settings. Factoring in self neglect, the total number of incidents was approximately 551,000.

A University of Iowa study based on 1999 data found 190,005 domestic elder-abuse reports from 17 states; 242,430 domestic elder abuse investigations from 47 states; and 102,879 substantiations from 35 states. Significantly higher investigation rates were found for states that require mandatory reporting and tracking of reports.

In 2000, states were asked to indicate the number of elder/adult reports received in the most recent year for which data were available. Based on figures from 54 states, the total number of reports was 472,813.

In 2003, state Long Term Care Ombudsman programs nationally investigated 20,673 complaints of abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation on behalf of nursing home and board and care residents. Among seven types of abuse categories, physical abuse was the most common type reported.

More Information:

The National Center on Elder-Abuse (NCEA) website is an outstanding resource and is a must bookmark site for forensic nurses. You can visit the NCEA website by Clicking Here

Back To Top Of The Page

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.