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U.S. Elder Abuse Statistics

Our elder abuse statistics are based on data from the OVC, CDC, NIH, and NCEA.

How Common Is Elder Abuse?

About 10 percent of people who are at least 60 years old and reside at home suffer from neglect, exploitation, or some other kind of abuse.
Approximately 5 million individuals are affected by elder abuse annually.
Nearly half of all people who have been diagnosed with dementia are neglected or abused by those who care for them.
Nursing home residents are vulnerable to neglect, abuse, and exploitation by staff and other residents. In one study, more than half of the staff members admitted to the neglect, mental abuse, or physical abuse of the patients. Additionally, almost one-quarter of the complaints filed against nursing facilities in 2012 involved sexual or physical abuse by other residents. There were 190,592 complaints in total filed that year.
Almost 1 in 3 nursing homes in the United States was cited for violating federal standards between 1999 and 2001. These violations caused harm or had the potential to harm residents.
In one study, researchers conducted 2,000 interviews with nursing home residents. Among the participants, 44 percent claimed to have been abused, while 95 percent claimed to have been neglected or to have seen other residents being neglected.
In one study, more than half of the staff members admitted to neglecting or abusing older patients during the prior 12 months. Of these incidents, two-thirds involved neglect.
In a survey involving certified nursing assistants, 17 percent had shoved, pushed, or grabbed a nursing home resident. Additionally, 23 percent admitted to swearing at or insulting a resident, while 51 percent said they had yelled at a resident at the facility.

Underreporting of Elder Abuse

No more than 5 percent of those older than 65 report instances of abuse or neglect to law enforcement, according to estimates by the National Center for Elder Abuse.
In the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, researchers determined that for every instance known, there were 24 that were not.

Most Common Types of Elder Abuse

The most common types of mistreatment among those who are older than 60 are:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Abandonment

Of the more than 190,000 complaints filed in 2013 against nursing facilities, 5.1 percent were for neglect, abuse, or exploitation. Of these:

  • 27.4 percent involved physical abuse
  • 22.1 percent involved resident-on-resident sexual or physical abuse
  • 19.4 percent involved psychological abuse
  • 15.3 percent involved gross neglect
  • 7.9 percent involved sexual abuse

Elder Abuse Risk Factors

Those who are most likely to fall victim to elder abuse include individuals with dementia, memory problems, or disabilities. Seniors who do not have any friends or family nearby are also likely to be targeted.
Seniors who are dependent on others when it comes to performing everyday tasks like dressing, grooming, or taking medication are especially vulnerable to abuse.
Women make up nearly two-thirds of those who fall victim to elder abuse
The victimization rate of violent abuse against women who are at least 65 years old was higher than the victimization rate of violent abuse against men of the same age in 2015. It was also 2.4 times higher the prior year. However, victimization rates of violent abuse against people in this demographic have not consistently been higher for men or women during the past two decades. Regardless, researchers estimate women fall victim to elder abuse more often than men.
Those who are at least 65 years old are significantly more likely—more than 30 percent, in fact—to fall victim to financial abuse than those in their 40s.
Younger senior citizens are more likely to fall victim to abuse. This may be because they are more likely to reside with a partner or an adult child. Spouses and adult children are two groups that have a high rate of abusers.
People who suffered abuse when they were young are at a higher risk of abuse as they age.
Seniors who have minimal social support are more likely to be victimized as they age.
Seniors who live with several people are more likely to be victimized, especially in regard to financial abuse.
Elder abuse has been associated with poverty and lower income situations. Having limited financial resources is believed to be a stressor that contributes to elder abuse.
These factors have been linked with the financial abuse of senior citizens:

  • Lower age
  • Non-reliance on social services
  • Dependence on others for help with daily living
  • Poor self-rated health
  • No partner or spouse
  • African American race

Effects of Elder Abuse

When it comes to the physical impact of elder abuse, the most documented effects are:

  • Wounds, welts, bed sores, and other injuries
  • Chronic pain and stiffness
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased vulnerability to disease, including those that are sexually transmitted
  • Exacerbated symptoms for existing conditions
  • A higher risk of premature death

Senior citizens who suffer abuse have a 300 percent higher chance of premature death than those who do not.
The psychological impact of elder abuse can be devastating. Effects include excessive distress and depression. These symptoms are more often observed in elders who have been abused than those who have not.
In one study involving older women, researchers found verbal abuse alone contributed to a sharper decline in mental health than physical abuse alone.
Financial abuse of the elderly affects a number of parties and results in significant losses for victims, families, and businesses. It also leads to a higher reliance on government programs like Medicaid.
Elder abuse can cause disabilities later in life, even among seniors who initially display no disabilities. It is also associated with a higher risk of hospitalization, the need for emergency medical care, and mortality.
The direct medical expenses associated with treating injuries caused by elder abuse are estimated to be responsible for excess of $5.3 billion of the country’s health expenditures annually.
The injuries that result from violent crimes against older adults are responsible for at least $5.3 billion in direct health care expenses annually.

Compared to seniors who are not abused, victims of elder abuse are three times more likely to be hospitalized, four times more likely to move to a long-term care facility, and three times more likely to suffer a premature death.

Who Commits Elder Abuse?

In 2015, 44 percent of violent crimes against people over 65 years old were committed by the victim’s partner, relative, or acquaintance, whereas 51 percent were committed by a perpetrator whom the victim did not know.
In 2009, a study found most elder abuse is committed by an individual whom the victim knows. Sexual and emotional abuse are most often committed by an acquaintance, partner, or spouse. Neglect is most often committed by a son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter. Physical abuse is most often committed by a spouse or partner.
In cases of elder abuse, spouses and adult children are the most likely perpetrators. Additionally, perpetrators are most likely to be men, have a history of substance abuse, have physical or mental health problems, and have a history of getting in trouble with law enforcement. They are also more likely to have limited social contact, have financial issues or be unemployed, and be under excessive stress.
In one study of more than 4,000 seniors, perpetrators who committed financial abuse were most likely to be family members (57.9 percent). Neighbors and friends, on the other hand, made up 16.9 percent of those who exploited the elderly financially, while home care aides made up 14.9 percent.

U.S. Elder Abuse Statistics