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What Is the Penalty for Elder Abuse in Pennsylvania?

Posted on May 8, 2024

What Is The Penalty For Elder Abuse In Pennsylvania?

As our elderly loved ones age and begin to depend on others for care, they also become vulnerable to abuse. Just when we hope our aging family members will be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity, they sometimes fall prey to physical, emotional, and financial abuse.

Some elderly nursing home residents even suffer from sexual abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care. Elder abuse is a growing problem in nursing homes, but it also occurs in other settings, including in an elderly person’s home or while they’re living with family members.

If you suspect a loved one has suffered from elder abuse, it’s important to know the legal recourse, including hiring a Philadelphia personal injury attorney and what penalties Pennsylvania has in place for those who cause intentional harm to a senior citizen.

Types of Elder Abuse

The elderly are vulnerable to several types of abuse and aren’t always cognitively or physically able to defend themselves or report the abuse. Common types of elderly abuse include the following:

Physical Abuse

Caregivers sometimes wrongfully vent their frustrations on the elderly in their care. Hitting, pushing, and unnecessary use of restraints are just a few common examples of physical abuse against the elderly.


When an elderly person depends on others for their care, they may experience neglect, particularly in understaffed nursing homes. Dehydration, malnutrition, frequent falls, and untreated bedsores are common physical impacts of nursing home neglect.

Emotional Abuse

Yelling, bullying, name-calling, and threatening are forms of emotional abuse. An astonishing 81% of interviewed nursing home caregivers said they’d witnessed emotional abuse against the elderly in their care.

Financial Abuse

Financially exploiting an elderly victim is another type of abuse. Sometimes wrongdoers gain access to the financial accounts of elderly persons in their care and make fraudulent transactions and withdrawals. Sometimes, a distant relative will move into an elderly person’s home and claim they are there to care for them, but then they freely use the elderly person’s belongings and access their financial accounts.

Sexual Abuse

One of the most egregious forms of elder abuse is sexual abuse. Typically this occurs against those with dementia or speech problems who cannot report the abuse.

Reporting Elder Abuse

Pennsylvania takes elder abuse very seriously. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has a reporting system with a 24-hour hotline. Family members who suspect their loved one has suffered abuse should also report it to their local law enforcement agency. It’s important to have their elderly loved one evaluated by a doctor unaffiliated with the nursing home so they’ll have the medical care they need for their injuries and documented evidence of the abuse.

Understanding the Penalties for Elder Abuse in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has strict penalties for those who commit abuse against vulnerable elderly citizens. A conviction for misdemeanor elder abuse results in up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

If the abuse victim suffers “serious bodily injury,” the charges become felony charges. Conviction for felony abuse against an elderly person results in up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.

Liability for Damages in Elder Abuse Cases

When an elderly nursing home resident suffers injury from any form of abuse while under the care of nursing home staff, the facility administration is liable for damages such as medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering, if the abused elderly resident dies as a result of the abuse, the family members can gain compensation from a nursing home wrongful death claim.