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Elder abuse is an act or omission resulting in harm to the health or welfare of an elderly person. Three key groups have published definitions of elder abuse.1,2,3 Although the incidence of elder neglect and abuse is unknown and widely felt to be underreported, the rate of different types of abuse among the elderly has been estimated to be in the mid-single digits, or between 500,000 and 1 million U.S. adults.4,5 Table 295-1 summarizes the categories of elder abuse.

TABLE 295-1Categories of Elder Abuse



Physical abuse is the most easily recognized form of elder abuse. It is defined as the use of physical force that might result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Pushing, slapping, burning, striking with objects, and improper use of restraint are all examples of physical abuse. Chemical restraint (such as intentional overmedication or administration of tranquilizers) is a more subtle form. Regardless of mechanism, physical abuse is carried out with the intention of causing suffering, pain, or other physical impairment to the abused person.


Elder neglect is the most common form of elder maltreatment, accounting for more than half of all elder maltreatment cases reported to adult protective services agencies annually.6 Elder neglect is defined as the failure of a caregiver to provide basic care to a patient and to provide goods and services necessary to prevent physical harm or emotional discomfort.7,8 Examples of neglect include deprivation of food, clothing, hygiene, medical care, shelter, or supervision that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of another.7,8

Elder neglect is both underrecognized and potentially lethal. It likely accounts ...

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