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What you need to know about elder abuse

Aging is an inevitable progression of life. Particularly as baby boomers enter retirement, the number of older Americans is expected to increase, and pose new challenges. Most of us know a family member who is an elderly person and given their age, health status, mental status and more may have legitimate concerns about their safety. Sadly, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, which is a division Department of Human and Health Services administration on aging, elder abuse is on the rise. But, many wonder as to what elder abuse is and who is affected?

First and foremost it is important to know that elders, also referred to as older people, are a vulnerable population. Elder abuse was first defined in 1987 by Federal authorities in an amendment to the Older Americans Act. However, it is essential to keep in mind that these definitions only serve as a guideline and are not mandatory. Presently, the definition of elder abuse varies from state to state. Elder abuse can be physical, emotional and sexual. Furthermore, it can also be exploitation, neglect and abandonment of the elderly individual. These are not mutually exclusive and several types of abuse can occur simultaneously.

In general, elder abuse falls under two categories namely domestic and institutional elder abuse. Domestic elder abuse refers to mistreatment of an elder by a family or someone who has some relationship with that elder such as a relative, friend, child or caregiver. Institutional elder abuse, on the other hand, refers to mistreatment of elders at some kind of a residential facility such as a nursing home, assisted living facility or group home. Elder abuse in an institutional setting is typically perpetrated by an individual who has a legal obligation to give the elder care.

Elder abuse can happen to anyone regardless of their gender, sex, social status and ethnic background. No one is immune.

Source: National Center on Elder Abuse, "FAQ: What is elder abuse?," accessed Sep. 15, 2014

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