Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney

Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

Sherry Boston, District Attorney

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is the maltreatment or neglect of dependent older people. It can be passive neglect, psychological abuse, financial abuse, active neglect, or physical abuse. Often, in cases in passive neglect, tensions from complicated, conflicted or unresolved family relationships result in neglect.

Occasionally, caregivers and family members find themselves stressed by the responsibility and thus become neglectful. Except in the instance of passive abuse, which is not intentionally caused and arises when a caregiver is overworked / under-informed, elder abuse is a deliberate act of hostility. In more active forms of abuse, there is actual intent to inflict harm or deprivation on the older person.

In many cases, the caregiver is motivated to abuse by his own greed or wish to exploit his charge. Or he may become increasingly resentful of his situation and his responsibility.

Unlike children, the elderly are responsible for themselves unless they are declared incompetent. Yet many are frail, dependent, and vulnerable, and as such, subject to abuse. Elder abuse cuts across gender, class, race and age lines.

In sixty percent of elder abuse cases, the abusers are spouses; twenty percent are adult children; and twenty percent are siblings, grandchildren, boarders, and caregivers. (USA Today, January 30, 2001)