Preventing Elder Abuse

I will never forget the day that my mother took my grandma to an interview for assisted living. My grandma pointed to my mother and said, “I am not sure who this person is; I think she is my sister-in-law or someone.” My mother burst into tears but pressed through to advocate for grandma’s needs. As our family thought about how vulnerable and fragile grandma had become, we began a grieving process—learning to say good-bye to someone who had always been so capable and generous before our final good-bye at her death the following year.

The following facts about elder abuse may provide insights for those in a similar situation as my family. They are written to increase awareness to help prevent incidents abuse in your community. 

Prevalence of Elder Abuse research studies estimate it to be from 2% to 10% of the American population over 65 years of age (National Center on Elder Abuse).

  • The Elder Abuse Model and mandatory reporting laws are similar to the child abuse model.  In 1974, the Social Security Act was amended to create national Adult Protective Services (APS).
  • Seven Types of Elder Abuse (The National Center on Elder Abuse) physical, sexual, emotional, financial/material exploitation, neglect, abandonment and self-neglect (isolated elderly person who is incapable of advocating for their own needs such as safety and physical health).
  • Five Components of Incidents Involving Elder Abuse  (Georgia J. Anetzberger, PhD, ACSW, LISW  See: http://www.preventelderabuse.org/about/president.html )
    1. Perpetrator: (self, trusted other or stranger or acquaintance;
    2. Setting (domestic/private care or institutional);
    3. Form (neglect and/or abuse e.g. omission/ commission);
    4. Perpetrator motivation: Intentional or unintentional;
    5. Locus of harm: Physical, psychological, social, financial and/or sexual.
  • Five Characteristics of Abusers (Ramsey-Klawsnick) http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_SVlaterlife_Guide.pdf
    1. The Overwhelmed Offender provides day-to-day care but has difficulty asking for help or seeking resources within the community. (Note: the care-giver stress theory does not fully explain elder abuse.)
    2. The Impaired Offender has physical or mental limitations. This person can be neglectful in administration of medication and may not realize that their behaviors are abusive due to their own substance abuse or mental illness issues.
    3. elderly careThe Narcissistic Offender who does not want to provide care and is neglectful but has agreed to care for an elderly person as an opportunity for exploitation such as financial abuse.
    4. The Bullying Offender lacks empathy and compassion, uses excessive power and control over elder victims who are unwilling to report it to others due to fear.
    5. The Sadistic Offender inflicts fear and takes pleasure in humiliating their victim but lacks the ability to feel guilt or remorse for abusive behaviors.
  • Five Areas For Screening Providers (Alice Yickk Flanagan, PhD, MSW of Capella University).Unsigned application, gaps in employment, unanswered questions regarding criminal background, references are friends or family not employers or supervisor, unclear reasons for leaving other positions and excessive mistakes or changes on application.

People in the latter stages of life have the right to autonomy, dignity, quality care and access to recourses as they gradually become more dependent. My mother made our family proud as she searched for competent professional services and was attentive to my grandmother’s needs. Although my mother was the primary caregiver, we all provided support, encouragement and respite as needed. The family unit is primarily responsible for safeguarding the emotional, social and economic safety for our older citizens.

For further information:


Author: Beth Holloway, MA, LPC for Miller Counseling Services, PC

Beth Holloway, MA, LPCA

Beth Holloway, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has more than 12 years’ experience in the mental health field. She has recently joined the Miller Counseling Services team and specializes in counseling individuals and couples who have experienced all types of losses including abuse, domestic strife, and trauma. She enjoys leading group therapy classes in the areas of Divorce Recovery, Spiritual Enrichment, Couples and Parent/Child Relationships, Grief Processing and Depression Recovery. Beth has had the privilege of traveling all over the United States and to more than 10 foreign countries and has been enriched by learning about people from diverse cultures and ethnic groups.

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