Elder Abuse

Every year an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological, or other forms of abuse and neglect. For every case of elder abuse and neglect reported to authorities, experts estimate that there may be as many as five cases not reported. 90% of elder abuse and neglect incidents are by known perpetrators, usually family members; 2/3 are adult children or spouses.   — Bureau of Justice Statistics

Elder abuse is an extreme problem and for some is difficult to detect. Victims may not define their situation as abuse especially in a dysfunctional family environment where violence or mistreatment has been “normalized.”

Federal definitions of elder abuse first appeared in the 1987 Amendments to the Older Americans Act, however, these definitions are guidelines. Each state defines elder abuse according to its unique statutes and regulations, and definitions vary from state to state. Researchers also use varying definitions to describe and study the problem.

According to Montana law, elder abuse is the infliction of physical or mental injury; or (b) the deprivation of food, shelter, clothing or services necessary to maintain the physical or mental health of an older person or a person with a developmental disability without lawful authority.  Montana Code Annotated § 52-3-801.

The following types of abuse are commonly accepted as the major categories of elder mistreatment:

  • Physical Abuse—Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
  • Emotional Abuse—Inflicting mental pain, anguish or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
  • Sexual Abuse—Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, coercing an elder to witness sexual behaviors.
  • Exploitation—Illegal taking, misuse or concealment of funds, property or assets of a vulnerable elder.
  • Neglect—Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Abandonment—The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.

Although there are distinct types of abuse defined, it is not uncommon for an elder to experience more than one type of mistreatment at the same or different times. For example, a person financially exploiting an elder may also be neglecting to provide appropriate care, food, or medication.

If you believe a loved one has been subjected to abuse of any kind, please contact our team of experienced lawyers for a free consultation to discuss how we may be able to help you at 406-728-0810.