Elder abuse generally includes the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of persons age 65 or older. Abuse includes involuntary seclusion, intimidation, humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment, deprivation, hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, any type of corporal punishment, sexual assault, sexual coercion, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, or any oral, written, or gestured language that includes disparaging or derogatory terms, regardless of the elderly person's ability to hear or comprehend.
Neglect means the failure of a caretaker to provide the goods or services—including medical services—that are necessary to avoid physical or emotional harm or pain. Neglect may cause starvation, dehydration, over- or under-medication, unsanitary living conditions, or lack of personal hygiene. Neglected adults may also not have heat, running water, electricity, or medical care.
Exploitation includes a caretaker's illegal use of a senior's resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain. Elderly persons may need help with their finances, but unless they hand control over to another person, they have the same rights as anyone else to receive, spend, invest, save, or give away their money. A family member, "friend," or nursing home may not take control of an elderly person's money without that person's permission. Exploitation also means misusing the resources of an elderly or disabled person for personal or monetary benefit. This includes taking Social Security or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) checks, misusing a joint checking account, or taking property and other resources.
Most states have an Adult Protective Services (or comparable) agency or department that investigates reports of elder abuse and assists with preventing and stopping elder abuse—including abuse in nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. Elder abuse may be prosecuted as a criminal offense under applicable state law (assault, battery, sexual assault, theft, identity theft, etc.). And some states have specific statutes that provide increased penalties for the abuse or exploitation of elderly persons.