Elder Abuse

Most cases of Elder abuse are undetected, under reported, and unresolved resulting in injury, financial decimation, and even death. The National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative (NIEJI) was created to address the lack of culturally appropriate information and community education materials on Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in Indian Country.

Types of Elder Abuse and Warning Signs

Physical Abuse

Hitting, pushing, shaking, slapping or use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment to an Elder

  • Warning Signs: Broken eyeglasses or frames, unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two sides of the body


Treatment of an older adult in ways that cause emotional or psychological pain or distress, including intimidation through yelling or threats, humiliation and ridicule, or isolating an Elder from friends or activities

  • Warning Signs: Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior, or behavior from the Elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves

Sexual Abuse

Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or coerced upon an Elder, including those who are unable to grant consent

  • Warning Signs: Bruises around the breasts or genital areas and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases

Financial or Material Exploitation

Theft, fraud, misuse, or neglect of authority to gain control over an Elder's assets

  • Warning Signs: Sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as loans or gifts, and loss of property


Refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an Elder

  • Warning Signs: Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, untreated physical problems, such as bed sores


An adult's inability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care

  • Warning Signs: Poor personal hygiene/not bathing or taking care of hair and nails, poor medication management or refusing to take medication, dehydration, malnutrition or other unattended health conditions


Desertion of an Elder person by an individual who has assumed responsibility for providing care for an Elder, or by a person with physical custody of an Elder

  • Warning Signs: Being left dirty or unbathed, unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather

Spiritual Abuse

Causing harm to an Elder's spiritual well-being

  • Warning Signs: Not taking Elders to spiritual ceremonies or taking Elders' ceremonial items