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Women and Elder Abuse

As documented cases of elder abuse continue to grow across America, the government and nonprofit organizations are studying the issue and learning more about it. One of the populations that are most vulnerable to elder abuse is women. Women make up at least 65% of total elder abuse victims, and this number may be even higher. Elder abuse of women can occur anywhere, in nursing facilities but also in private homes.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse constitutes any action that causes harm, risk of harm, or distress to an elderly person. The action can be intentional or negligent. Usually elderly abuse is committed by caregivers or family members, but it can be committed by any person who takes advantage of their relationship with the elderly person and violates the trust that they have been given.

Currently, it is believed that about 10% of the elderly population suffers from elder abuse, and that only about 6% of abuse cases are ever reported. Elderly abuse can take many forms, but the most common forms are physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, abandonment, and self-neglect.

Why Are Women More Vulnerable than Men?

There are a few reasons why more women are victims of elder abuse than men. One of the simple reasons is that women live longer than men. The older an elderly person is the greater risk they have for elder abuse. Because more women are senior citizens than men, women overall make up a greater portion of elder abuse victims. The longer average life of women also means that women are more likely to be widowed than men, and senior citizens who do not have a spouse are also more likely to be victimized.

However, the longer life expectancy of women does not completely explain the gender disparity. Women are also targeted for elder abuse because they are seen as frailer, weaker, and more vulnerable than elderly men. Elderly women are also more likely than elderly men to suffer from serious diseases and injuries, and this also makes them more susceptible to abuse and exploitation.

What Are Warning Signs of Abuse?

In some cases, elder abuse is very obvious, but in other cases, like in cases of financial exploitation, it can be very difficult to notice. Sudden changes in an elderly person’s behavior, mood, and financial behavior can be hints that elder abuse is occurring. Common signs of all types of abuse include depression, anxiety, sadness, and seclusion. Here are some specific changes that you should look for and take note of because they often follow abuse or occur while abuse is happening.

Physical Abuse

  • Falls and accidents occurring more often than normal
  • More trips to the physician and emergency room
  • Injuries that can’t or won’t be explained
  • Reluctance to examine injuries
  • Bruises, wounds, and fractures
  • Recent fear of physical touch and violence

Sexual Abuse

  • Pelvic pain
  • Bruised inner thighs, buttocks, or breasts
  • Urinary burning or vaginal bleeding


  • Not taking medications, seeing doctors, or following medical advice
  • Not maintaining health
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Bed sores
  • Poor hygiene

Financial Exploitation

  • Sudden changes in wills, deeds, and POA
  • Possessions missing or given to others
  • Suspicious or consistent bank withdrawals or credit card purchases
  • Unable to pay for basic services and needs

Elder Abuse of Women and Nursing Homes

Unfortunately, nursing homes are an area where the risk of abuse is high. More than 33% of nursing home residents report that they have been abused, and over 90% report that they have seen another resident abused. Because nursing homes are often understaffed, acts of abuse and neglect are common and usually not reported. If you notice any warning signs being exhibited by your loved ones, you should investigate and possibly remove them from the home as soon as you can.


“Elder Abuse and Neglect.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 26 Feb 2014. <http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/elder-abuse.aspx?item=2

Oman, Doug, Dwayne Reed, et al. “Do Elderly Women Have More Physical Disability than Men Do?.”American Journal of Epidemiology. 150 (8).February (1999): 834-842. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/150/8/834>.

“Statistics/Data.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 26 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.aspx

“The Older Population.” A Profile of Older Americans: 2011. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 26 Feb 2014. http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2011/docs/2011profile.pdf


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