Elder abuse in the COVID-19 era based on calls to the National Center on Elder Abuse resource line

Gali H. Weissberger, Aaron C. Lim, Laura Mosqueda, Julie Schoen, Jenna Axelrod, Annie L. Nguyen, Kathleen H. Wilber, Richard S. Esquivel, S. Duke Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated circumstances that place older adults at higher risk for abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Identifying characteristics of elder abuse during COVID-19 is critically important. This study characterized and compared elder abuse patterns across two time periods, a one-year period during the pandemic, and a corresponding one-year period prior to the start of the pandemic. Methods: Contacts (including social media contacts, and email; all referred to as “calls” for expediency) made to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) resource line were examined for differences in types of reported elder abuse and characteristics of alleged perpetrators prior to the pandemic (Time 1; March 16, 2018 to March 15, 2019) and during the pandemic (Time 2; March 16, 2020 to March 15, 2021). Calls were examined for whether or not abuse was reported, the types of reported elder abuse, including financial, physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect, and characteristics of callers, victims, and alleged perpetrators. Chi-square tests of independence compared frequencies of elder abuse characteristics between time periods. Results: In Time 1, 1401 calls were received, of which 795 calls (56.7%) described abuse. In Time 2, 1009 calls were received, of which 550 calls (54.5%) described abuse. The difference between time periods in frequency of abuse to non-abuse calls was not significant (p= 0.28). Time periods also did not significantly differ with regard to caller, victim, and perpetrator characteristics. Greater rates of physical abuse (χ 2= 23.52 , p< 0.001) and emotional abuse (χ 2= 7.12 , p= 0.008) were reported during Time 2 after adjustment for multiple comparisons. An increased frequency of multiple forms of abuse was also found in Time 2 compared to Time 1 (χ 2= 23.52 , p< 0.001). Conclusions: Findings suggest differences in specific elder abuse subtypes and frequency of co-occurrence between subtypes between time periods, pointing to a potential increase in the severity of elder abuse during COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number689
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health grants (RF1AG068166 to S.D.H., R01AG060096 to L.M., K01AG064986 to A.L.N., and T32 AG000037 to A.C.L.) and the Administration for Community Living grant (90ABRC0001-02–00 to L.M.), as well as the Department of Family Medicine of the University of Southern California.

FundersFunder number
National Institutes of HealthT32 AG000037
National Institute on AgingRF1AG068166, R01AG060096, K01AG064986
University of Southern California
Administration for Community Living90ABRC0001-02–00


    • COVID-19
    • Elder abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Family members
    • Financial abuse
    • Neglect
    • Physical abuse


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