Skip to Content

Physical Abuse of an Elderly Person for Family Members and Carers


Physical abuse of an elderly person is harm done to a person who is 60 years or older by a carer. A carer may be a family member or someone who is responsible for giving care. The carer may hit, slap, kick, push, pull hair, burn, or force feed the person. The carer may also give him or her the wrong amount of medicine. Physical abuse also includes sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when someone has sexual contact with the person without his or her consent. Physical abuse can happen in the person's home, the carer's home, or a facility, such as a nursing home.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures the person may need. Informed consent means he or she understands what will be done and can make decisions about what he or she wants. The person gives his or her permission when he or she signs the consent form. Someone can sign this form for the person if he or she is not able to sign it. He or she has the right to understand medical care in words he or she knows. Before the person signs the consent form, he or she should understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all his or her questions are answered.


is a tube placed in the person's vein for giving medicine or liquids.

Extra oxygen

may be needed if his or her blood oxygen level is lower than it should be.

Vital signs

include the person's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. Healthcare providers will check the person's vital signs often. They will also ask about his or her pain.


  • Antibiotics help prevent or treat a bacterial infection.
  • Pain medicine may be given.
  • A tetanus shot may be given if there is an open wound. The person should have a tetanus shot if he or she has not had one in the past 5 to 10 years.


  • Blood and urine tests may be done to check for health problems, such as malnutrition or infection.
  • A pelvic exam is done in women so healthcare providers can check for any injuries that may have resulted from the abuse.
  • A culture and smear exam is used to take a sample of discharge from the genitals. The sample is sent to a lab for tests.
  • X-rays may show if any bones are broken or out of place. X-rays of the elder's chest and abdomen may also be taken.
  • A 12-lead ECG, also called an EKG, helps healthcare providers look for damage or problems in different areas of the heart. A short period of electrical activity in the person's heart muscle is recorded. This test may show problems or changes in how his or her heart is working.
  • Neurologic signs, also called neuro signs, are used to check how the brain is working after an injury. Healthcare providers will check the person's eyes, memory, and how easily he or she wakes up. Hand grasp and balance may also be tested. The person may need to have neuro signs checked often.


  • Counseling may be recommended. A counselor can help the person talk about how he or she is feeling. Physical abuse may cause him or her to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. A counselor can help him or her with these feelings.
  • Surgery may be needed to treat injuries. Surgery may return bones to their normal position if there is a broken bone. Surgery may also be needed to correct a deformity or treat other injuries.


Left untreated, physical abuse may cause serious health and emotional problems. Repeated physical abuse may lead to severe injuries or death. The person may also become depressed.


The person has the right to help plan his or her own care. To help with this plan, the person must learn about his or her health condition, and how it may be treated. He or she can then discuss treatment options with healthcare providers. They can help him or her decide what care and treatment may be used. The person always has the right to refuse treatment.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Physical Abuse of an Elderly Person for Family Members and Carers (Inpatient Care)

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.