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What is Elder Mistreatment?

There is no universally accepted definition.  Elder mistreatment includes physical, psychological and sexual abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.  But those who care for older adults who have been mistreated - social services professionals, medical providers and legal/law enforcement officials - and researchers who study elder mistreatment do not have a common definition. Legal definitions vary from state-to-state; most states require reporting in some form, but Adult Protective Services mandates, procedures and records differ, making comparison difficult. 

National Research Council's Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect 2003 definition published in Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America, p. 40.  

"(a) intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm whether or not intended, to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder or (b) failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder's basic needs or to protect the elder from harm."

Reference:  Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America (2002) Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT)

The North Carolina law that addresses abuse of adults.

Communities differ in what they consider elder mistreatment; factors that influence these differences include culture, race and ethnicity. Actions that are accepted in one community may be considered mistreatment in another.

Efforts are underway by the National Institute on Aging to develop a standardized conceptual and operational definition of elder mistreatment and to fund studies that will lead to the measurement of the prevalence and incidence of elder mistreatment.  It is difficult to develop policy and procedures to deal with elder mistreatment when these basic facts are unknown.  Yet it is certain that the number of older adults in our society is growing and those who are mistreated are likely to place a greater burden on the systems of care.