Elder Abuse

Case 1

Mr G, a septuagenarian, suffered a stroke after which he needed help with his daily activities. He went to live with his son’s family. Both his son and daughter-in-law being working professionals, they were hardly at home. Mr G saw how busy they were and tried to be independent and not bother them. When his friend Ms C visited him, she found quite a few things amiss. Mr G was unkempt, his room had a bad odour and his normally cheerful demeanour was missing. Ms C was concerned that Mr G was not being cared for properly.

Case 2

After his mother passed away, Mr V started to look after his 80-year-old grandfather, Mr J. Because of his poor vision, Mr J could no longer go to the bank. So, Mr J permitted Mr V to withdraw money from the bank every month for expenses. Lately, it seems the bank balance is lower than it should be. Mr J wonders if Mr V is keeping some cash for himself.

Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse

The World Health Organization recognizes elder abuse as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

In India, as per the 2014 multi-city (tier 1 and tier 2) HelpAge India survey, 50% of the older adults faced elder abuse and 78% of them were living with their families. Son (60%) is the most common abuser as experienced by the older person. Abusive language (74.3%) is the most common form of abuse, and Delhi (76%) topped the survey for verbal abuse. In Chennai, the prevalence of elder abuse was a shade lesser (43%) than the national average, and the daughters-in-law (59.1%) followed by daughters (22%) were the most common abusers. Most of the abusers (44%) belong to the middle age group (18-44 years) and elder abuse is widely prevalent (66.2%) in higher-income households. Physical abuse (11%) was the lowest in Chennai.

Types of Elder Abuse

Physical Abuse

  • Someone causes physical injuries, assault, pushing and shoving, inflicting body pain.
  • Inappropriate use of medicines, restraining or confinement or isolation other than for medical reasons.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

  • Threatening or scapegoating, hurling abuses, harassment or humiliation, intimidation, blaming, verbal or non-verbal acts causing distress in mental health.

Neglect and Abandonment

  • Passive neglect is withholding the older adult from the needs of physical, emotional, psychological, financial and/or healthcare access.
  • Willful deprivation of medications, healthcare devices, housing, and exposure to harm that can cause physical, social and emotional deprivation.
  • Self-neglect includes lack of personal hygiene, malnourished or underweight, and living in unsanitary or dirty conditions. They will be unable to pay bills or manage their medications. It can also be a sign of depression, grief, dementia or other medical problems and refusal of medical assistance. They may be in denial, feel ashamed about needing help, or worried about losing their independence.

Financial Abuse

  • Unlawful use of an older person’s funds, properties, identity and other financial assets.

Sexual Abuse

  • Nonconsensual activities are not limited to touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity or when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened or physically forced.

Signs of Abuse

  • Unexplained weight loss and unexplained physical injuries.
  • Broken visual aids or glasses and lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, medications, etc.).
  • Unsanitary conditions and poor personal hygiene.
  • Has trouble sleeping, decreased daily activities.
  • Becomes withdrawn, increased isolation or acts agitated or violent or increased fear or anxiety.
  • Develops bed sores or other preventable conditions.
  • Has an unpaid rent or home eviction or any sudden unusual change in spending pattern.
  • Displays signs of insufficient care or unpaid bills despite adequate financial resources.


Taking Care of Health of a Caregiver

  • To relieve stress and burnout, practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises.
  • Request help from friends, relatives or local respite care agencies or find an adult day-care program.
  • Learn anger management techniques.
  • Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and take care of your own medical needs.
  • Seek help for depression.
  • Find a support group for caregivers of the elderly.
  • Get help for any substance abuse issues.
  • Get professional help by talking to a therapist.

As an Older Person

  • Make sure your financial and legal affairs are in order and review your will from time to time.
  • Don’t divulge financial details over mobile and keep your mobile with yourself.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends and avoid becoming isolated.
  • If you are unhappy with the care you’re receiving, whether it’s in your own home or a care facility, speak up.
  • Attend support groups and seek professional help for depression, grief, loneliness, etc.

Legislation for the Protection of Older Adults

Maintenance of Parents Act (2007)

Two amendments were passed in 2013 and 2018 wherein parents could complain against their sons and they could be held legally for not supporting their parents. In the 2018 amendment, daughters and sons-in-law were also held responsible for supporting their parents.

Parents and Senior Citizens Act (2007)

A bill that makes it a legal obligation for children and legal guardians to provide older adults maintenance, and permits state governments to start and maintain old age homes in each district.

There is also provision for getting maintenance from children if they are not able to take care of themselves. The punishment could be paying a fine of Rs 5000 or three months in prison or both.

Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Bill 2019

Ensuring senior citizens basic needs, safety and security, establishment, management, regulation of institutions and services, and rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

It also talks about removing the ceiling of Rs 10000 and also includes the appointment of nodal police officers for senior citizens at every police station and district-level special police unit with a helpline for senior citizens.

Article 41 of the Constitution upholds the right of senior citizens to employment, education and public assistance.

It also ensures that the state must uphold these rights in cases of disability, old age or sickness.

Article 46 upholds the educational and economic rights of the elderly that must be protected by the state.

The International Elder Abuse Awareness Day is celebrated on June 15th every year.


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