• Partnerships & Federal Agency Interventions
  • Addressing Associated Legal Issues
  • Criminal Prosecution & Restitution
  • Legal Remedies for Victims
  • Litigation Skills

Landscape of Elder Justice

  • 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.


  • Criminal prosecution is a key elder abuse deterrent, however, “we cannot prosecute our way out of the problem of elder abuse.” Civil legal services are a critical component to elder abuse prevention and relief.  Civil legal aid attorneys are uniquely positioned to deploy legal strategies and advocacy to mitigate the effects of abuse and help older adults attain the remedies they seek. Civil legal remedies can provide valuable relief to older adults, including stopping ongoing abuse and obtaining restitution.

    Civil legal services programs are also generally equipped to handle the associated legal issues discussed in this Toolkit, such as Medicaid, housing, and consumer issues. Some of your clients may not want to pursue criminal charges against a family member or friend, but are willing to explore their civil options. Additionally, some cases may not have the elements necessary for criminal prosecution. Civil legal remedies may be helpful whether or not a criminal prosecution is pursued. Civil legal aid attorneys play an important role in the protection and recovery process by assisting with obtaining protection orders, recouping funds, and other civil remedies that are addressed in this Toolkit.


Safe Exit