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Physical Abuse of the Elderly


Physical abuse occurs when a carer harms you or places you in danger. A carer may be a family member or someone who is responsible for taking caring for you. The carer may hit, slap, kick, push, pull your hair, burn, or force feed you. He may also give you the wrong amount of medicine. Physical abuse also includes sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when someone has sexual contact with you without your consent. Physical abuse can happen in your own home, the carer's home, or a facility, such as a nursing home.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You have shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel that you cannot cope with the abuse, or your recovery from it.

Call your doctor if:

  • You cannot get to your next office visit.
  • You have new signs and symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics prevent or treat a bacterial infection.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Rest when you feel it is needed. Tell your healthcare provider if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Apply ice and heat as directed:
    • Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the injury for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
    • After the first 24 to 48 hours, your healthcare provider may ask you to use heat. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Counseling may be recommended. A counselor can help you talk about how you are feeling. Physical abuse may cause you to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. A counselor can help you with these feelings.

Ways to get help:

  • Report physical abuse. It may be hard to report physical abuse, but it is very important.
  • Go to follow-up visits. Your healthcare provider may talk to you, your family, friends, or those who should be held responsible for physical abuse. This may include what may happen if the abuse does not stop.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about available resources. For example, resources include help with finances or transportation to medical appointments. You may need to update your will or life insurance policy. You may need dental work or help with your hearing. Your provider or a social worker may be able to help you find experts who can help you. Your provider can also help you find a dietitian to help with your nutrition. Resources can help improve the quality of your life, and make you less dependent on carers.
  • An occupational therapist can help with activities of daily living. Examples include helping you choose a cane or walker to make it easier and safer to walk by yourself. A shower chair can make bathing yourself safer. A buttonhook and a shoehorn can make it easier for you to get dressed. An occupational therapist can also make your home safer by removing or securing area rugs, electric cords, or furniture you might trip on.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • National Center on Elder Abuse
    c/o University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine
    Alhambra , CA 91803
    Phone: 1- 855 - 500-3537
    Web Address:

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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.

Further information

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