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Elder Abuse


Elderly Native American Woman in a pink shirt.

Elder abuse can take many forms. Under Wisconsin statutes, it includes physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse/assault. Abuse by others can happen in one’s home or in an institutional setting such as a nursing home. It can be the result of neglect by others including adult children or other family members—even grandchildren. They can be spouses or partners. They can be caregivers.


Financial abuse continues to be a growing problem in this state and older persons need to be cautious about what personal information they share with strangers who may contact them by mail, telephone, or email. Those who take advantage of older persons may include family members or friends who are asking about an individual’s finances who have no legitimate reason for doing so.


Under Wisconsin law, self-neglect is also a form of elder abuse. This might be a situation where an older adult, often through no fault of his or her own, is just not able to care for themselves and, as a result, their physical well-being is at risk.


Abuse of the elderly often goes unreported because many victims don’t think of it as a crime—but it is. People are not necessarily charged with “elder abuse,” but may be charged under state law for crimes such as stealing, battery, causing undo harm, domestic abuse, and other violations. Knowing the signs of abuse and how to report it is the first step in preventing further abuse. If you suspect that an elderly person you know is being harmed physically or emotionally or being preyed upon financially, it is important to step in and report the crime.


Besides elders there are others that are considered vulnerable adults that also can be victims of abuse and should also be reported. Adult at Risk means any adult who has a physical or mental condition that substantially impairs their ability to care for their needs and who has experienced, is currently experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation.


Whether you know of an adult at risk or an elder that is experiencing abuse, you can call and make a report to the Aging & Disability Resource Center.  Resource Center staff can take your information and talk to you more about the process and next steps.