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What are the different kinds of elder abuse?

Growing older naturally presents more challenges for people. We all become more prone to disease, illness and accidents over time. Unfortunately, as elders we also become more vulnerable to abuse by others. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that each year hundreds of thousands of American adults age 60 and older experience some sort of financial exploitation, nursing home neglect or elder abuse. Some of those victims are Pennsylvanians.

Elder abuse across the country can take various forms. By definition, elder abuse is any of several types of actions that are intended to harm an older adult. It includes unintentional and intentional neglect of an elderly person by a caregiver or long-term facility. Such mistreatment can be broken down into four categories -- physical abuse, verbal or emotional abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse. Each category inflicts a different harm on the victim.

Physical abuse often happens when a caregiver or other person uses force that injures or causes unnecessary pain for the victim. It can include beating, shoving, hitting and pinching. Verbal or emotional abuse includes name calling, intimidation and threats against the person's physical well-being whether or not the threats are carried out.

Financial abuse is most associated with various forms of theft, including fraud, forgery, embezzlement and other scams to take the victim's money. Sexual abuse includes a wide range of inappropriate behaviors from exhibitionism to rape. Inappropriate touching, coerced nudity and the display of pornography are all forms of sexual abuse, which is probably the most underreported form of abuse.

Caregiver neglect is often called nursing home neglect. In either case, an individual or care facility fails to meet the elder person's physical, emotional and social needs, which can include a failure to provide basic needs, prescribed medication and a safe and secure facility.

Source: American Psychological Association, "Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions," Accessed on Jan. 7, 2014

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