Harrell Center

Elder Abuse

Elder AbuseStats and Facts

Definitions from 2004 Florida statutes:
Abuse means intentional infliction of physical or psychological injury upon an elderly person; an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological injury to an elderly person; or active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological injury to an elderly person.

Aggravated abuse occurs when a person commits aggravated battery on an elderly person; willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages, an elderly person; or knowingly or willfully abuses an elderly person and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the elderly person.

Neglect means a caregiver's failure or omission to provide an elderly person with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the elderly person's physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the elderly person; or a caregiver's failure to make a reasonable effort to protect an elderly person from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.


  • The annual incidence of elder abuse and neglect is estimated to be between 2 and 10%
  • Between 1 and 2 million Americans 65 and older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection
  • The number of cases of elder mistreatment will increase as the population ages

Risk Factors

  • Victims tend to have shared living situations, social isolation, and dementia.
  • Characteristics of perpetrators that are major risk factors for elder mistreatment include mental illness, hostility and alcohol abuse.
Possible Symptoms of Elder Abuse:
The following signs do not definitively indicate abuse, but they can be important clues to possible abuse or neglect.
  • Change from normal routine
    • change in appearance
    • change in fiscal circumstance
    • sleep pattern disturbance
  • Unusual or unexplained injuries (cuts, bruises, burns)
  • Confinement against will (examples: tied to furniture or locked in room)
  • Dehydration or malnutrition without a medical cause
  • Fear / Anxiety, withdrawal or depression
  • Hesitation to talk openly

Excellent resource for practitioners: VandeWeerd, C., Firpro, A., Fulmer, T., & Paveza, G. (in press). Elder Mistreatment. In J. Gallo, T. Fulmer, G. Paveza, & W. Reichel (Eds.) Handbook of Geriatric Assessment. Fourth Edition. Aspen Publication, Gaithersburg: MD.


  1. The Florida Senate. The 2004 Florida Statues. Chapter 825: Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Elderly Persons and Disabled Adults. Retrieved May 16, 2005: http://www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display Statute&URL=Ch0825/ch0825.htm
  2. National Research Council (2003). Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation in an Aging America.
  3. List adapted from University of Illinois – Elder Abuse and Neglect Program: http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/elderabuse/signs.html