“When someone takes advantage of an older adult by virtue of age-related changes—like physical frailties or Alzheimer’s disease, or something along those lines—and then harms them, that generally is what we call elder abuse,” says Laura Mosqueda, Associate Dean of Primary Care, Chair and Professor of Family Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. “We do see behaviors that are criminal, like people being beaten, or sexually assaulted, or having things thrown at them. Really, off-the-scale awful things,” Dr. Mosqueda says. “The majority is more in the middle of ‘You really shouldn’t have done that.’ The thing that gives hope about this is that I think we can do a better job preventing and detecting these issues early so that [elder abuse] doesn’t happen.”
Laura Mosqueda, MD, FAAFP, AGSF, is a widely respected authority on geriatric and family medicine, elder abuse, and care of the elderly and underserved. She is also the co-director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, a federally funded initiative that serves as the nation’s coordinating body and clearinghouse for information on research, training, best practices, news and resources on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. She is the principal investigator for a major Health and Human Services-funded study that addresses primary and secondary prevention of the abuse of people who have a dementing illness, and is the leader of numerous other activities related to elder justice.