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Physical Abuse of the Elderly for Family Members and Carers


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



  • Pain medicine: The elder may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • He should learn how to take his medicine. Ask which medicine he should take and how much to take. Be sure he knows how, when, and how often to take it.
    • He should not wait until the pain is severe before he takes his medicine. Tell healthcare providers if his pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make him dizzy or sleepy. The elder should prevent falls by calling someone when he gets out of bed or if he needs help.
  • Medicine should be taken as directed: Call the elder's healthcare provider if he thinks his medicine is not helping or if he has side effects. Tell the healthcare provider if the elder is allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs he takes. This includes the amounts, and when and why he takes them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. The elder should carry his medicine list with him in case of an emergency.

Follow up with the elder's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during the elder's visits.

Ice and heat:

  • 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 his injury for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • After the first 24 to 48 hours, the elder's healthcare provider may ask him 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.

Injury or wound care:

Ask his healthcare provider for information about how to take care of injuries.


The elder may need to rest when he feels it is needed. Tell the elder's healthcare provider if he has trouble sleeping.


Physical abuse may cause the elder to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. The elder's healthcare provider may suggest that he see a counselor to talk about how he is feeling.

How to help the elder:

  • Report physical abuse: It may be hard to report physical abuse, but it is very important. Healthcare providers can help the elder if he is at risk for or is a victim of physical abuse.
  • Attend follow-up visits with the elder: A healthcare provider may talk to you, the elder, his family, friends, or those who should be held responsible for physical abuse. This may include what may happen if physical abuse does not stop.

For support and more information:

  • National Center on Elder Abuse
    101 The City Drive South 200 Building
    Orange , CA 92868
    Phone: 1- 855 - 500-3537
    Web Address:

Contact the elder's healthcare provider if:

  • The elder cannot get to his next office visit.
  • The elder has new signs and symptoms.
  • You or the elder has questions or concerns about his condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • The elder feels like hurting himself or someone else.
  • The elder feels that he cannot cope with the abuse, or his recovery from it.
  • The elder has shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

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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.

Learn more about Physical Abuse of the Elderly for Family Members and Carers (Discharge Care)

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