DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN LATER LIFE/ELDER ABUSE

The abuser was a family member in more than half of the approximately six million reported U.S. cases of elder abuse and neglect. 2004 Survey of State Adult Protective Services: Abuse of Adults 60 Years of Age and Older

Like many younger victims, older victims often choose not to reveal abuse by intimate partners and family members. This can be due to fear, shame, isolation, and their ideas about options. It can also include concerns about the person who hurts them. If victims have health problems that limit their freedom and the abusers are also their caretakers, they may worry about who will provide the care or if they will be moved to a nursing home. Abuse in later life is often a continuation of on-going domestic violence as partners age. This is referred to as "domestic violence grown old".

Estimates show that one million Americans 60 years of age or older are abused in their homes each year. Only one case in 14 is ever reported to authorities. Elder Abuse Prevalence and Incidence, National Center on Elder Abuse, 2005

The abuse that older victims describe is similar to the experiences of other victims of domestic violence; abusers control their victims through intimidation, isolation, threats and violence. However, for older victims, abuse can be made worse by age, poor health and other age-related needs. Abusers may limit access to medical care, give too much medicine or take away assistive devices. Older victims are also less likely to call a local domestic violence program or the police, so they don't show up as often in reports about crimes.

Older people have the right to make their own decisions. This can present challenges to others concerned about their safety.

If you suspect an older person is being abused you can

  • Support the older victim.
  • Listen and give them information.
  • Avoid telling them what they SHOULD do.
  • Contact the domestic violence program in your area for information and guidance.

To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in Pennsylvania: Elder Abuse Hotline 1-800-490-8505. In Pennsylvania, elder abuse does not carry a mandatory reporting requirement except in certain institutional settings.

If you see abuse or fear for someone's immediate safety, call 9-1-1 or your local police.

PCADV works to increase safety and access to services for older victims of domestic violence

  • PCADV's member programs work in every county to provide domestic violence victims and families with emergency shelter, housing options and other services to help victims gain financial stability and independence. 
  • PCADV legal department attorneys provide technical assistance to advocates and attorneys helping domestic violence victims facing elder abuse legal issues.
  • PCADV collaborates with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to cross-train aging and domestic violence advocates, guide direct service providers and law enforcement, and create a coordinated response to meet the needs of victims age 50 and older.
  • Request training from PCADV, your local domestic violence program, or the county Area Agency On Aging
  • Get posters on Elder abuse

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