Definition of Elder Abuse

The Adult Protective Services Act, Act 519, Public Acts of 1982, MCL 400.11 clearly defines what qualifies as elder abuse.

According to the Act, elder abuse is defined as: The harm or threatened harm to an adult’s health or welfare caused by another. The term “elder abuse” includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Let’s take a closer look at the three types of elder abuse.

Physical and Emotional Abuse

Physical abuse as it pertains to elders is conduct that is intended to cause physical injury to an elderly person, such as slapping, hitting, kicking, imposing physical restraints, and similar conduct.

Physical abuse also includes sexual abuse, such as inappropriate touching and non consensual or forcible sexual activity. An adult has the right to a consensual sexual relationship with another adult; however, these relationships can become abusive if an adult does not have the capacity to turn away unwanted sexual advances or is coerced or threatened into consenting to sexual activity.

Emotional abuse is also considered abuse of the elderly, according to the Act. This includes conduct such as threatening to withdraw needed care or making humiliating or demeaning remarks toward an elderly person.


According to the Act, elderly neglect is harm to an adult’s health or welfare that is the result of the adult’s inability to respond to a harmful situation (self neglect). It also includes the failure of a person who assumes responsibility for a significant aspect of the adult’s health or welfare to respond to a harmful situation or to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care (This is often called “caregiver neglect.”) An example of caregiver neglect would be leaving a wheelchair-bound elderly person who has suffered a stroke in front of the TV all day without meals or bathroom assistance.

Financial Exploitation

Elder financial abuse (also called “exploitation”) is the misuse of an adult’s funds or property. This can include outright theft, misuse of a power of attorney, or other breach of a fiduciary duty to manage funds belonging to the adult. It also encompasses an intentional breach of a promise to repay money or provide services paid for in advance. An example of elder financial abuse would be using a power of attorney to withdraw money from an elderly person’s bank account then spending the money for personal benefit instead of using it for the benefit of the elderly person.

Learn to recognize the signs of abuse – read our section on the indicators of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly person.