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Comforting Hands


Abuse in later life is the willful abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older adult age 50 or older perpetrated by someone in an ongoing, trust-based relationship with the victim (i.e., spouse, partner, family member, or caregiver).

Facts about abuse in later life

  • Every year, approximately 4 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological and/or other forms of abuse and neglect.

  • Older adults who require assistance with daily life activities are at increased risk of being emotionally abused or financially exploited.

  • Approximately 50% of older adults with dementia are mistreated or abused.

  • An estimated 13.5% of older adults have suffered emotional abuse since the age of 60.

  • Victims of elder financial abuse lost an estimated $2.9 billion in 2011.

  • 76.1% of physical abuse toward older adults is perpetrated by a family member.

  • Most elder sexual abuse cases involve female victims and male perpetrators.

  • Only one out of every 24 cases of elder abuse is reported.

  • Only 15.5% of elder sexual abuse is reported to police.

Questions to ask if you think you’re being harmed

  • Have family or friends expressed concern about your relationship?

  • Are your children, friends, or other family members afraid to visit you?

  • Are you concerned that someone may be harming or controlling you but don’t know where to get help?


Does a spouse, partner, family member, caregiver, or other person:

  • Try to limit the amount of time you spend with friends and family or on the phone or internet?

  • Scare you and make you feel fearful?

  • Tell you that can never do anything right?

  • Yell at you or tell you that you are worthless or no good?

  • Make you feel as if you need to tip-toe around to prevent an outburst of anger?

  • Make you do things you don’t want to do?

  • Threaten to put you in a nursing home if you do not do what they want?

  • Touched you or forced you to do sexual things you do not want to do?

  • Take money or possessions from you without your permission?

  • Refuse to provide care or provide care in a way that is hurtful?

  • Throw or break items that are important to you?

  • Threaten to harm you in anyway?

  • Hit, push, pinch, strangle, or slap you?

  • Threaten to kill you?

Image by Vitalijs Barilo

Ways to help victims

Many victims of abuse feel alone and ashamed as a result of the abuse. They may blame themselves for the abuse or feel they have nowhere to turn. They may also feel pressure from others not to reach out for help or fear no one will believe them.

Start the conversation

If you are concerned about someone and you wish to help, start by approaching them at a time and place that is safe and private. Let them know that you are concerned about them and that they do not deserve to be harmed. Let them know that you care for them, you respect them, and you are there to help. To get the conversation started, consider statements such as:

  • I am concerned for your safety.

  • No one deserves to be harmed.

  • There are organizations that can help.

  • I am here to help whenever you are ready and with whatever you might need.

To learn more about some of the key issues intersecting with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, visit our Resources page.

Image by Gerhard Kupfer

We Are Here to Help

If you need assistance with safety planning, getting an Order of Protection, accessing legal services, or would just like emotional support, The Friendship Center can help. If you or a loved one is struggling and want to request services or simply talk about the situation, reach out to our office. All our services are free and confidential.

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