Elder abuse statistics 2024

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The U.S. is growing older. Experts predict that seniors (people ages 65 and over) will make up 23% of the country by 2050, up from 16.5% now. As the aging population grows, more families of elderly people will need to choose where their senior relatives should live — at home in their community or in an assisted living setting — and who should care for them. These are vital decisions because elderly people can be vulnerable to several different types of abuse from their caregivers.

Key insights

An estimated one-sixth of seniors, or about 141 million people worldwide, experience some form of abuse.

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Psychological abuse is the most common type of elderly abuse in both community and assisted living environments.

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Elderly Americans lose nearly $36.5 billion every year because of financial abuse.

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About 64% of elder care facilities’ staff members commit some form of elderly abuse in a given year.

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Researchers estimate that there are 23.5 unreported cases of elder abuse for each reported and documented case.

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Elderly abuse statistics

Abuse of elderly people has severe consequences. Victims of this abuse are three times more likely to die prematurely than elderly people who do not experience abuse.

There’s also an economic cost. A 2004 study found that treating injuries associated with this abuse cost the U.S. an estimated $5.3 billion in annual health care spending. That’s equivalent to about $8.8 billion today, after factoring in inflation.

Types of elderly abuse

Abuse of the elderly can take any of the following forms:

  1. Neglect: failure to provide adequate care for an elderly person. Signs of neglect include weight loss, poor personal hygiene, untreated medical issues and unpaid bills. Neglect can lead to bedsores, sepsis and sometimes death.
  2. Physical abuse: intentional use of physical force, like kicking, hitting, shoving or restraining an elderly person. Bruises, cuts, burns and other injuries can signal this abuse, as can delayed medical care, repeated hospitalization for similar injuries or poor explanations by the caregiver about how an elderly person got injured.
  3. Sexual abuse: involves nonconsensual sexual contact with an elderly person, including sexual contact with those who have cognitive disabilities and cannot give consent. Problems walking or sitting; injuries around the anus, genitals, inner thighs and pelvis; as well as new sexually transmitted diseases or infections are all warning signs of sexual abuse.
  4. Abandonment: leaving a dependent elderly person without the intention of returning. An elderly person who is lost, has poor hygiene or is malnourished may have been abandoned.
  5. Psychological abuse: infliction of mental distress or fear upon an elderly person. This can include threats, belittling, deprivation of resources and isolation from loved ones. Elderly people enduring this type of abuse may seem depressed or scared. They might also have low self-esteem, new eating or sleeping patterns or sudden mood swings.
  6. Financial abuse: illegal or improper use of an elderly person’s money and resources. An elderly person might be experiencing financial abuse if they lack knowledge about their financial situation, make changes to their bank accounts or have unpaid bills and unexplained bank account withdrawals.
  7. Self-neglect: when an elderly person can no longer care for themselves and struggles to eat, get dressed, address their medical needs or manage their own finances, they may need help from a caregiver.

How much is lost to elder financial abuse?

Almost 37% of seniors in the U.S. are affected by financial abuse in a given five-year period, and financial abuse costs elderly Americans $36.48 billion per year, according to a 2015 study by True Link Financial.

The study divides elder financial abuse into three categories: financial exploitation, criminal fraud and caregiver abuse. Financial exploitation is the most prominent among these subcategories of financial abuse, costing seniors almost $17 billion each year.

The study’s authors characterize financial exploitation as the use of misleading or confusing language and social pressure to consensually obtain a senior’s financial resources. It’s often wielded against seniors who suffer from cognitive decline or memory loss.

In terms of overall fraud, older people had higher fraud losses than younger individuals in 2022. Fraud victims between the ages of 70 and 79 reported a median loss of $1,000 in 2022. Fraud victims ages 80 and older reported a median loss of $1,750.

Where are elderly people most likely to be abused?

Abuse of the elderly occurs in both community and institutional environments, though it appears to be far more common in the latter.

Elderly abuse in community settings

About 141 million elderly people experience abuse in community settings worldwide, including elderly people who choose to age in place or live in retirement communities. That’s 15.7%, or about one-sixth, of the world’s seniors. Psychological abuse is the most common form of elderly abuse in community environments, affecting about 11.6% of seniors who live in these settings, followed by financial abuse and neglect.

According to a 2019 study that examined reports made to the National Center on Elder Abuse’s resource hotline, perpetrators of elderly abuse are often the family members of their victims.

The study found that financial and emotional forms of abuse are particularly common among elderly abuse perpetrated by family members. About 32% of relatives who abused their elderly family members committed more than one subtype of abuse.

Elderly abuse in institutional settings

Almost two-thirds of nursing home staff admitted to committing some type of elderly abuse in 2017, according to a study by the European Journal of Public Health that analyzed surveys taken in several countries. As with elderly abuse in community settings, psychological abuse was the most common type of elderly abuse perpetrated by nursing home staff.

Common motives for elderly abuse

There are many underlying issues that may cause perpetrators to abuse senior citizens, including the following:

  1. Stress/resentment: Taking care of an elderly person can be stressful. Elderly caregiving can strain a caregiver’s financial resources, mental health, time and relationships.
  2. Carelessness: An inexperienced caregiver can unintentionally neglect an elderly person in their care, causing malnutrition, bedsores, sepsis or gangrene.
  3. Greed: Bad actors may be more likely to target the elderly, as it’s easier to defraud those who are cognitively, socially and emotionally vulnerable.

Underreporting of elderly abuse

A study that examined self-reported instances of abuse in New York found that there were 23.5 unreported cases for every reported and documented case of elderly abuse. The study’s authors also found that cases of neglect were the most underreported subtype of elderly abuse, while emotional abuse was the least underreported subtype.


What puts elderly people at risk of abuse?

According to a study published in the Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, health care insecurity is the strongest correlational factor with elder abuse. Seniors who experience health care insecurity are about 4.5 times more likely to be victims of abuse than peers who have consistent access to health care.

Whom do I call to report elder abuse?

To report cases of financial fraud targeting elderly people, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311. For local resources, visit the website of the National Adult Protective Services Association.

What’s a long-term care Ombudsman?

Long-term care Ombudsmen are paid or volunteer advocates for senior citizens who live in elder care facilities. They investigate complaints, educate residents about the services and support available to them and help residents’ families monitor their loved ones’ living conditions.


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