There are many definitions of elder abuse. In the Older Americans Act, it is defined as “the knowing infliction of physical or psychological harm or the knowing deprivation of goods or services that are necessary to meet essential needs or to avoid physical or psychological harm.” Generally, elder abuse takes many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Elder financial exploitation is the most prevalent form of abuse experienced by older adults, but many victims will experience more than one type of abuse, which is called polyvictimization.
All types of elder abuse cause harm to the physical health, mental well-being, and financial stability of older adults. Rates of hospitalization and mortality are much higher among victimized older adults, and the financial losses attributed to exploitation are in the billions of dollars. Elder abuse affects many people- it is estimated that 1 in 10 older adults experience at least one form of abuse.
Elder abuse may have both criminal and civil remedies. With or without criminal prosecution, civil legal aid attorneys are uniquely positioned to deploy civil legal strategies and advocacy to ensure victim safety, mitigate the effects of abuse, and help recover stolen assets. This Toolkit is a detailed guide for civil legal aid attorneys.