Office of the Prosecuting Attorney

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take a number of forms and may be defined in various ways. It is most often defined as an action by a person in a position of trust which causes harm to an elderly person. Harmful actions by strangers are usually not considered elder abuse.

The exact incidence of elder abuse is unknown. One estimate for the United States places the number of seniors abused or mistreated at 1.5 million per year. The figure may be much higher since elder abuse is often not reported. In any event, with a rapidly growing elderly population, the numbers can be expected to rise.

Who are the victims of elder abuse?

Although elders who have mental or physical disabilities are at the greatest risk, elder abuse can happen to anyone. More women than men live to be elders, but both sexes are equally at risk for abuse. Some older adults are abused they their spouses or by their children, others by caregivers in institutions. As with other types of abuse, those who abuse elders usually keep the victim socially isolated.

What types of elder abuse occur?

There are two categories of elder abuse:

  1. Domestic elder abuse - Maltreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder (spouse, sibling, child, friend, caregiver)
  2. Institutional elder abuse - Maltreatment of an older person that occurs in residential facilities for older persons (nursing homes, group homes, board and care facilities)

There are seven types of elder abuse:

  1. Financial or Material Exploitation - The illegal or improper use of an elderly person's funds, property or assets
    • withholding money
    • cashing an elderly person's check without authorization
    • forcing an elderly person to sell personal property
    • stealing an older person's money or possessions
    • misusing power of attorney
  2. Emotional/Psychological - The infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts
    • humiliating, insulting, name calling
  3. Neglect - The refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an elderly person; failure to provide necessary care
    • withholding food or medical attention
    • leaving a senior in an unsafe or isolated place
  4. Physical - Use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment
    • hitting or pushing
    • forced confinement in a room, bed, or chair
    • overmedication
  5. Sexual - Nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person
    • sexual molestation
    • unwanted touching
    • rape
  6. Self-Neglect - Behavior of an elderly person that threatens their own safety or health
    • refusal to provide themselves with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter
    • refusing medication
  7. Abandonment - The desertion or willful forsaking of an elder person by any person having the care and custody of that elder, under circumstances in which a reasonable person would continue to provide care of custody

How does Kalamazoo County handle elder abuse?

The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office takes Elder Abuse seriously. We respect and take great pride in our elder population. When evidence allows, criminal charges will be filed under the Michigan Vulnerable Adult statutes. [MCL 750.145]

Adult Protective Services - 269-337-5046

Source: Sudbury Elder Abuse Committee, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Web Links

American Psychiatric Association Information on Elder Abuse
Web Resources on Elder Abuse