Physical Abuse is unfortunately common against elder Americans, with the National Center on Elder Abuse reporting that at least five to 10 percent of caregivers are physically abusive towards patients. The effect of physical abuse on patients is both physical and psychological. Elderly citizens that have suffered abuse have a 300 percent higher risk of death than those that have not been abused, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Health Effects of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse affects the health of patients both directly and indirectly. Patients may suffer lacerations, bruises, broken bones, head injuries, dental problems, and numerous other injuries as a direct result of being physically abused. Indirectly, patient’s existing health conditions may worsen, or patients may develop other conditions as a result of the physical abuse.

Psychological Effects of Physical Abuse

The psychological effects of physical abuse are numerous and may vary from patient to patient. Patients may become withdrawn and begin to lose communication skills. Conversely, patients may become aggressive and begin to exhibit violent tendencies.

Psychological Impact on Health

Abused patients may lose sleep, stop eating, and develop stress disorders in response to physical abuse. Lack of sleep or nutrition can be detrimental to the patient’s immune system, and can severely undermine the mental health of patient.  Self neglect and even self harm may also begin following physical abuse.

Disorders that are associated with the psychological impact of physical abuse include:

  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders including anorexia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Digestive problems


Societal Effects of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse of elders is a problem that negatively impacts the society in which the abuse takes place. People living in a society in which elder abuse is common tend to have apprehension about getting older, therefore fueling dissention and anxiety. Elder citizens that suffer abuse are not productive as long, and have a much shorter life expectancy.

Financial Impact

Physical abuse against elders is also a costly problem for the society in which it takes place. An estimated 5.3 billion dollars is spent annually in America to provide health care to elderly citizens that have suffered abuse. Much of this money is provided by programs which are funded by tax dollars.

Physical Abuse Risk Factors

Certain characteristics and situations may make an individual more likely to physically abuse a patient. Substance abuse, depression, and other disorders or problems that may alter mental state may increase the probability that the caregiver or family member will abuse the patient. Feelings of helplessness or being overwhelmed are commonly reported from individuals that have been accused of elder abuse.

Risk Factors among Patients

Patient factors that may put elders at an increased risk for abuse include:

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • History of abuse of family members
  • Physical disability
  • Patient tendency toward aggression
  • Patient complacency, or lack of response
  • Patient frailty and ill health
  • Social isolation


Treating Effects of Physical Abuse

A patient that has been physically abused should be removed from the abusive situation immediately. If the patient has injuries, the injuries should be treated by health professionals. Internal injuries and underlying complications may accompany visible injuries, so the patient should receive a full examination. Once the patient is in recovery from any physical injuries, the patient should begin receiving psychological therapy.

Recovering from Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can have a huge impact on a patient and the patient’s family financially. Costs to treat both physical and psychological damage in the aftermath of abuse can be high. These costs may be difficult to cover without assistance from the parties responsible.

Contacting an Attorney because of Physical Abuse

An attorney should be contacted as soon as possible following an incident of elder abuse. An attorney may be able to provide the family or the patient with the best course of action for recovering costs associated with treatment for abuse. An attorney may also help the family or patient to seek action which holds the individual or company responsible for the abuse accountable.




“Elder Abuse: Consequences.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Jan 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <>.

“Elder Abuse.” National Institute on Aging. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 Feb 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <>.

“Statistics/Data.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <