Elder Physical Abuse

Elder physical abuse refers to the use of violence and/or force against an older person in an attempt to cause injury or harm.

What is Elder Physical Abuse?


It is when someone uses violence or force against an older person intending to cause harm. It can take many forms.


Elder physical abuse can take many forms, including punching, kicking, pushing, or grabbing an older person.


It also includes threatening an older person with nearly any object such as a gun, knife or another instrument.


When a paid or family caregiver is unnecessarily rough with an older person (for example, in the course of bathing or toileting a dependent older person).


Physically or chemically (with medications) restraining an older person can also be a form of physical abuse in elders.

Why Does It Occur?

Elder physical abuse can occur for many reasons.

Mental Health or Substance Abuse Problems
Abusers often have mental health or substance abuse problems, and may be violent with others besides the older adult such as other family members.

Caretaker Stress
Sometimes it occurs for other reasons, such as when a caregiver is stressed out and/or sleepless and frustrated with their care giving role.

Dementia-Related Behavioral Problems
Sometimes older adults with dementia can themselves develop aggressive or violent behaviors as part of their disease, striking paid and family caregivers who may sometimes retaliate.

We are Working to End The Physical Abuse of Elders

From research and policy, to direct services, the team at elderabuse.org is focused on one thing: ending elder abuse.

What Harm Can It Cause?

Elder physical abuse can result in serious injuries or even death.

Physical Injuries

Injuries include fractures, lacerations, bruising, and damage to any organ that is injured during physical abuse.

Small Injuries Can Tip People into Poor Health
Because older adults typically have more chronic medical problems than younger people, even minor injuries from physical abuse can “tip” an older adult into poor health and have lasting consequences far greater than a younger person.

Injuries Can Also Destroy Lives
A relatively minor ankle fracture or sprain from elder abuse can cause an older adult already struggling with walking to lose the ability to walk. A younger person would weather such an injury with little consequence. But for an older adult, the implications can be devastating.

Your Involvement Can Change Everything.

Action comes in many different forms. Share your treasure, talent, time, or talk in order to help us end elder abuse.

What Can Be Done to Stop Elder Physical Abuse?

Stopping physical abuse starts with recognizing abuse.


Elder abuse-related injuries are often missed as they may be thought to be related to the aging process or a disease. A fracture may be attributed to osteoporosis rather than a shove. Bruising might be attributed to blood thinning medicines commonly taken by older adults rather than a slap or punch.


Once physical abuse is recognized, stopping it depends on the specifics of the situation. Abusers with mental health problems need treatment. Those with substance abuse problems need addiction services. Caregivers who become violent because of burnout need education and relief of their caregiving role.


When an older adult is in imminent danger, it is imperative that he or she be separated from the abuser. Sometimes this involves emergency hospitalization of the older person; in other cases, arrest of the abuser may be the best course of action. Prolonged instances of abuse can have escalating consequences.


Taking action is often emotionally complicated. The abuser may be a family member and the victim may resist pursing legal remedies and arrest against their loved one. Community services such as social workers and adult protective service professionals may be invaluable resources in this situation.