Caregiver Stress Can Lead to Elder Abuse

Stopping elder abuse starts with reducing caregiver stress









The National Institute on Aging states, "abuse can happen to anyone-no matter the person's age, sex, race, religion, or ethnic or cultural background.  Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited.  This is called elder abuse.  

Examples of elder abuse include:  

  • Emotional abuse includes yelling, threatening, or saying hurtful words.
  • Neglect includes leaving an elder alone without properly planning for care or ignoring requests for help.
  • Financial abuse includes misappropriating funds or stealing belongings.  

Abuse is a willful act with the intention to harm.  Indeed, we must be diligent to not excuse or look the other way regarding abusive actions. 

For a complete list of forms of abuse, please refer to  

Risk Factors

About 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, "informal" care each year for adult family members.  In addition, approximately 87% of the care for frail older adults is furnished by family members, and 13% by paid professionals.  These numbers clearly point to the fact that the majority of care for elders is provided by families in a home.  

A leading risk factor for elder abuse is inadequate preparation or training for caregiving responsibilities.  Furthermore, the lack of training and education for caregivers contributes to feelings of frustration and even anger.  Indeed, stress for family and professional caregivers is a growing concern as the population ages.

Persons living to 85 years of age have a 50% chance of developing dementia.  Sadly elders living with dementia are at an even higher risk of abuse due to cognitive decline.  Consequently, this leaves many elders at risk as longevity is extended.  


  • Educate yourself and others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.
  • Understand the effects of dementia and how it makes a person more vulnerable to abuse. 
  • Seek support if you are a professional or family caregiver.  Coping resources are available.  
  • Understand your limits and recognize the signs of stress.
  • Protect financial resources early on.  

As the U.S. population ages and becomes more diverse, focused attention on elder abuse prevention is critical.  To that end, public and private enterprise programs are essential .  AGE-u-cate® Training Institute provides research informed education and training that is effective, affordable and flexible.  AGE-u-cate's Compassionate Touch® program teaches simple, yet effective skilled touch techniques with specialized communication that any person can learn, from professionals to families.  Compassionate Touch is proven to prevent stress reactions, especially for persons living with dementia.  Equally important, it has proven outcomes in reducing caregiver stress.  AGE-u-cate's other program, Dementia Live® is a simulation experience and empathy training that allows participants to step into the world of dementia, empowering a deeper understanding of and empathy for persons living with dementia.  Greater caregiver empathy leads to improved communications, which in turn can build trust, reduce stress reactions and improve well being for both care partners.  

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute, a global organization whose mission is to ignite change in aging services by delivering effective and affordable caregiver education and meaningful life enrichment programs, thus improving the quality of life for older adults.  Find out more about AGE-u-cate's dynamic program offerings.