Kalamaoo County

Area Agency on Aging Region IIIA


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What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse refers to the intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to a vulnerable elder. Elder abuse can take many forms including: Financial exploitation, physical abuse, neglect by a caregiver or self-neglect, verbal and emotional abuse, or sexual abuse.

What are the risk factors?

Elder abuse can happen to anyone and can occur anywhere - in a person's own home, in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, even in hospitals. It affects elders across all socioeconomic groups, cultures and races. More than two-thirds of elder abuse perpetrators are family members. Common risk factors include:

  • The elder is socially isolated or withdrawn

  • The elder is in poor physical health

  • The elder has dementia, mental health or substance abuse issues

  • The caregiver has mental health or substance abuse issues

  • The caregiver was abused as a child, grew up in a household where violence was used to resolve disputes, or has a history of conflict with the older person.

  • The caregiver is experiencing stresses such as marital conflict, unemployment, economic problems, or caring for both parents and children.

  • The caregiver lacks experience and skills as a caregiver, does not understand the older person's disease, or has little support from other family members.

Identifying and reporting elder abuse

If you suspect elder abuse - report it:

(This is the 24/7 Statewide Abuse Hotline)*

Have the following information available

  • Victim's name, address or location, approximate age, race and sex.

  • Brief description of the victim's disability, infirmity.

  • Signs or indications of abuse (see section below)

  • Name, address, phone number of any possible responsible person (perpetrator) and their relationship to the victim.

  • Your name, address and phone if you want to receive notification of investigation.

The identity of a person making a report is kept confidential. The reporter will be notified, in writing, that the referral has been received and is being investigated, or that the complaint is not appropriate and why.

*Contact Kelly Jonker, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, with questions about abuse in licensed long-term care facilities, (269) 373-5161.

How to identify the warning signs of abuse:

  1. Financial Exploitation:

    • Lack of affordable amenities and comforts in an elder's home.

    • Giving uncharacteristically excessive gifts or financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship.

    • A caregiver has control of an elder's money but fails to provide for the elder's needs.

    • An older adult has signed property transfers (power of attorney or will, for example) but is unable to comprehend what the transaction means.

  2. Physical Abuse:

    • Inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, or burns.

    • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.

  3. Neglect (includes Self-neglect):

    • Lack of basic hygiene or appropriate clothing.

    • Lack of food.

    • Lack of medical aids (ie: glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, or medications).

    • Person with dementia left unsupervised.

    • Person confined in bed is left without care.

    • Home is cluttered, dirty, or in disrepair.

    • Home lacks adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heating and cooling, plumbing, and electricity).

    • Untreated bed sores or pressure ulcers.

  4. Emotional Abuse:

    • Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, or unexplained changes in alertness.

    • Caregiver isolates the elder (doesn't let anyone in the home or speak to the elder).

    • Caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, or uncaring.

For more information on Fraud and Scams, please check out "Fraud and Scams" on our Resources page.