Types and signs of elder abuse

Learn more about the different types of elder abuse and how to identify the signs of elder abuse.

Types of abuse


Involves seniors or adults with disabilities who fail to meet their own essential physical, psychological or social needs, which threatens their health, safety and well-being. This includes failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter and health care for one’s own needs.

Caregiver neglect

Includes failures by individuals to support the physical, emotional and social needs of adults dependent on others for their primary care. Neglect can take the form of withholding food, medications or access to health care professionals.

Financial exploitation

Includes the misuse, mishandling or exploitation of property, possessions or assets of adults. Also includes using another’s assets without consent, under false pretense, or through coercion and/or manipulation.

Emotional abuse

Involves creating emotional pain, distress or anguish through the use of threats, intimidation or humiliation. This includes insults, yelling or threats of harm and/or isolation, or non-verbal actions such as throwing objects or glaring to project fear and/or intimidation.

Physical abuse

May include slapping, hitting, beating, bruising or causing someone physical pain, injury or suffering. This also could include confining an adult against his/her will, such as locking someone in a room or tying him/her to furniture.

Sexual abuse

​​​​​​Sexual abuse includes: physical force, threats or coercion to facilitate non-consensual touching, fondling, intercourse or other sexual activities. This is particularly true with vulnerable adults who are unable to give consent or comprehend the nature of these action.

Warning signs of abuse

Physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment
  • Bruises
  • Pressure marks
  • Broken bones
  • Abrasions
  • Burns
Emotional abuse
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
  • Sudden change in alertness
  • Unusual depression
  • Strained or tense relationships
  • Frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult
Financial abuse
  • Sudden changes in financial situations

  • Malnutrition/dehydration, poor hygiene, bedsores, inappropriate clothing
  • Mismanagement of medications
  • Home safety issues, hoarding behavior, lack of proper utilities
  • Eviction or foreclosure
  • Wandering, unsafe behavior such as unsafe smoking, unsafe driving
  • Unpaid bills, compulsive spending
Verbal or emotional abuse
  • Belittling
  • Threats
  • Other uses of power and control by individuals

Contact   for Types and signs of elder abuse


Call Specialist available Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (interpreter services are available in 100+ languages)


Fax Number (617) 727-9368


Executive Office of Elder Affairs
One Ashburton Place, 3rd floor, Boston, MA 02108

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