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Recognizing and Preventing Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Individuals with Disabilities and Older Adults

By Roxanne J. Chang, Esq. [1]

Individuals who have disabilities or who are older are at higher risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, approximately 30 percent of individuals with disabilities who need assistance with daily care, maintaining health and safety, and accessing the community have experienced some form of mistreatment. The National Council on Aging estimates that one in 10 Americans who are 60 years or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Unfortunately, it is suspected that actual occurrences may be even greater than what is reported, for various reasons.

The definitions of abuse and exploitation vary from state to state, but they are defined by the National Council on Aging as follows:

Warning Signs

Abusers can be anyone: a family member, a friend, a stranger, a service provider or a neighbor. It is important, therefore, to be informed and on the lookout for the warning signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Warning signs of abuse include:

Warning signs of neglect include:

Warning signs of exploitation include:

Preventing and Addressing Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation

There are some steps that can be taken to prevent abuse, exploitation or neglect:

If you suspect that a person may be experiencing abuse, exploitation or neglect:

Abuse, neglect and exploitation can happen to anyone. We can more effectively prevent and address them by educating ourselves and others, and building a stronger community of support to promote the health, well-being and independence of older adults and individuals with disabilities. After all, “It takes a village!”