Causes of Death: Elder Abuse

There are many forms of elder abuse. The most commonly reported is the financial exploitation of the older adults. Some tribes in the Continental U.S. are taking an active role in preventing elder abuse; for example, the Navajo Tribe has a program where the tribe mediates with families where abuse has been reported. This mediation allows for both parties to save face, and for the elder to remain in the family environment if desired, while also holding the perpetrator accountable for his/her actions.

In the case of suspected elder abuse, be aware that Alaska Native older adult do not always trust the Euro-American justice system; they may be extremely reluctant to implicate others in reports of neglect or abuse, particularly when it involves family members. Prevention and intervention of elder abuse needs systematic focus. Community networks that focus upon agreement and teamwork need to be developed in order to raise awareness and provide outreach, detection, and encouragement to report abuse. While urban areas have a variety of programs and systems in place to address the needs of elders, the rural areas need to engage the village-based elder’s councils to organize forums to focus upon elder priorities.

Table 3 Types of Elder Abuse

Type of Abuse

Explanation of Abuse

Financial Exploitation The unjust or improper use of another person or their resources
Self-Neglect The act of omission by vulnerable adults that could result in the deprivation of essential services
Neglect The intentional failure of a caregiver to provide essential services
Physical Abuse The intentional or reckless non-accidental infliction of pain or injury
Guardianship Petition for guardianship for any vulnerable adult deemed incompetent who doesn’t have family member to petition
Mental Abuse The intentional or reckless non-accidental infliction of mental distress
Sexual Abuse Sexual assault
Source: State of Alaska, Adult Protective Services