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What is Elder Abuse

Information

Elder abuse is mistreatment of an older person, or other vulnerable adult, causing harm or serious risk of harm or loss.  It can also include self-neglect by a vulnerable adult – someone who, because of physical or mental impairment, is unable to meet their own needs or to seek help without assistance. 

Elder abuse takes many forms. Abuse can occur through abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect.  In Alaska, legislation was passed in 2012 to strengthen protections for seniors and other vulnerable adults, including adding “undue influence” to the definition of harm.

Abandonment means desertion of a vulnerable adult by a caregiver who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

Abuse is the wilful, intentional, or reckless nonaccidental, and nontherapeutic infliction of physical pain, injury, or mental distress, and sexual assault.  Warning signs might include poorly explained bruises, broken bones, cuts, burns or sexually transmitted diseases, or the elder is kept from other social contacts.

Exploitationmeans unjust or improper use of another person or another person's resources for one's own profit or advantage.  Warning signs might include excessive gifts or payments to a caregiver, transfer of property when it is not in the elder’s interest to do so, or unexplained loss or decrease in bank accounts, or a caregiver with control of financial resources is not providing for basic needs.

Neglect means the intentional failure by a caregiver to provide essential care or services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of the vulnerable adult. Warning signs might include inadequate food or clothing, lack of hygiene or fecal/urine smell, untreated bedsores or medical conditions, or a lack of needed supervision.

Self-neglect means an act or omission by a vulnerable adult that results, or could result in the deprivation of essential services necessary to maintain minimal mental, emotional, or physical health and safety.

Undue influence happens when a person in a position of trust or authority uses that position to wrongfully exploit the trust, dependency, or fear of an elder or vulnerable adult to gain control over decision making, including decisions related to finances, property, residence, and health care of the vulnerable adult.