Chicago has issued a proclamation declaring July as Elder Abuse Awareness Month. What IS elder abuse? June is acknowledged as National Elder Abuse Prevention Month. In his own proclamation making June 15 Florida’s Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Governor Rick Scott expressed his commitment to making life safer, healthier and just better overall for the elderly.

The various types of elder abuse consist of:

  1. Physical abuse – Pushing, striking, slapping, kicking, pinching, restraining, shaking, beating, burning, hitting, shoving or other acts that can cause harm to an elder.
  2. Neglect – Unexpected or unexplained deterioration of health, personal care or living situation. Inadequate food, clothing and/or shelter.
  3. Emotional or Psychological – Verbal berating, harassment, intimidation, threats of punishment or deprivation, criticism, demeaning comments, coercive behavior or abuse, isolation from family and friends.
  4. Financial or Material Exploitation – Improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets, cashing checks without permission, forging signatures, coercing or deceiving an older person into signing a document, using an ATM/debit card without permission.
  5. Sexual abuse – Nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind including assault or battery, rape, sodomy, coerced nudity or sexually explicit photographing.
  6. Self-neglect – When individuals fail to provide themselves whatever is necessary to prevent physical or emotional harm or pain.

The greatest risk for the victim comes from those with whom they live. Family dynamics can be a major contributing factor in adult abuse.

Elder Abuse – Domestic violence by family members?

The most common types of crimes against seniors are, in this order: #4 is “Elder abuse,” consisting of domestic abuse. Estimates are that only 16% of these crimes are reported. This includes such crimes as physical and sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial or material exploitation and although not a crime, emotional or psychological abuse. And that is #4.

Coming in at #3 is “Violent Crimes.” This would include such crimes as home invasions with physical attacks, random muggings, robberies, and such. Seniors are least likely to become victims of violent crimes.

#2 is “Property Crime.” Property Crime is defined as “Any crime when valuables are damaged, or stolen from a person without direct personal contact.” This includes burglary and auto theft. More than 9 in 10 crimes against the elderly are property crimes.

And, the #1 crime perpetrated upon seniors is “Financial Crimes.”  Financial exploitation is through use of Powers-of-Attorney, caregivers, scams (door-to-door repairs, roofers, painters, etc.), and by trusted advisors and family members.

Possible signs of Physical Abuse of elders are bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions and burns.

Possible signs of sexual abuse are unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, sudden change in alertness and unusual depression. There may also be bruising around the breasts and/or genitalia. This is one category I never fathomed to exist – not until I sat through the course on Elder Abuse as I was preparing to take the test for my Certificate as Designated Victim Services Practitioner. We were shown a video of a 96-year-old woman named Mary. All she ever wanted was to live outside a nursing home. It was her greatest fear, being put away and forgotten. So, she was invited by her grandson to come and live with him and his girlfriend. Soon after, she became responsible for all the cooking and cleaning. She paid “rent” by giving them portions of her social security check each month. Often her grandson would get drunk, shove her around and force her to give him more money for alcohol and drugs. She recounted on video to the case worker of how he would come into her bedroom, slam her down on the bed and rape her. My blood curdled. A grandson raping his 96-year-old grandmother? He was eventually arrested, convicted and incarcerated. Mary’s video testimony was used at trial. She died earlier – in the nursing home.

If you live in Florida, according to Fla. Statute 415, you may be legally required to report any knowledge of elder abuse, whether a neighbor, family member, church member, etc. Don’t be caught in a position where you may be charged for failure to report.

Elder abuse. Hopefully, this has shed some light on the nature of the beast, and you the reader can realize more clearly how important it is to keep our eyes wide open. There is no room in American society for elder abuse.


Carolyn S. Hennecy recently received a certificate as Designated Victim Services Practitioner through completion of a 40-hour course conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Florida. She is recognized nationally as an expert survivor spokesperson on domestic/intimate partner abuse and violence, sexual assault and child molestation and abuse.


Follow Carolyn on Facebook: CLICK HERE or on Twitter @CarolynHennecy


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