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Physical Abuse Of The Elderly


What is 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.

What causes physical abuse of an elder?

The exact cause of physical abuse is not known. Poor or crowded living conditions may be one of the reasons it occurs. The following may increase your risk of physical abuse:

  • You have learning or memory problems.
  • You have a long-term condition, such as dementia, diabetes, paralysis, or stroke.
  • You have no relatives or friends who can take care of you.
  • You have difficulty getting along with others.
  • The carer depends heavily on you for things such as money or housing.
  • The carer drinks alcohol or uses illegal drugs.
  • The carer has a personality disorder, depression, or another mental illness.
  • The carer has a history of family violence, such as physical or sexual abuse.
  • The carer has stress due to work, taking care of you, or financial problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of physical abuse of an elder?

  • Repeated falls or injuries, or old injuries that were not treated when they happened
  • Scratches, bite marks, or marks from objects used for restraining, such as belts, ropes, or electrical cords
  • Broken or dislocated bones
  • Cuts or bruises, especially on both upper arms (grab marks)
  • Scars or burns from cigarettes, irons, or hot water
  • Blood or discharge coming from your nose, mouth, or genitals

How is physical abuse of an elder diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your body closely to look for injuries caused by physical abuse. Your healthcare provider may ask you if you have been hit, slapped, injured, or touched sexually without your consent. He may also want to know who is abusing you and how long the abuse has been happening.

  • Blood and urine tests: Blood and urine tests may be done to check for health problems, such as malnutrition or infection.
  • Pelvic exam: Women may need to have this exam so healthcare providers can check for any injuries that may have resulted from the abuse.
  • Culture and smear exam: A sample of discharge may be collected from your genitals, and sent to a lab for tests.
  • X-rays: X-rays may show if any bones are broken or out of place. X-rays of your chest and abdomen may also be taken.

How is physical abuse of an elder treated?

You may be placed in another setting, such as an adult day care. Special services may be offered to you to ensure your safety and health.

  • Counseling: Physical abuse may cause you to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you see a counselor to talk about how you are feeling.
  • Medicines: Healthcare providers may give you medicine to help ease your pain. You may need antibiotic medicine or a tetanus shot if there is an open wound. Medicines may also be given if you have other medical conditions.
  • Surgery: You may need surgery to treat injuries. Surgery may return bones to their normal position if you have a broken bone. You may also need surgery to correct a deformity or treat other injuries.

What are the risks of physical abuse of an elder?

You may bleed or get an infection if you have surgery to treat your wounds, fractures, or other injuries. If left untreated, you may develop serious health and emotional problems. Repeated physical abuse may lead to severe injuries or death. You may also become depressed.

How can I help myself?

  • Report physical abuse: It may be hard to report physical abuse, but it is very important. Healthcare providers can help you if you are at risk for or are a victim of physical abuse.
  • 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.

Where can I find 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:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

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

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You feel that you cannot cope with the abuse, or your recovery from it.
  • You have shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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