Common Signs of Elder Abuse

What is Elder Abuse?

In general, elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder. In
many states, younger adults with disabilities may qualify for the same services and protections. Physical abuse; neglect; emotional or psychological abuse; financial abuse and exploitation; sexual abuse; and abandonment are considered forms of elder abuse. In many states, self-neglect is also considered mistreatment.

Who is at Risk?

Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races. Based on available information, women and “older” elders are= more likely to be victimized. Dementia is a significant risk= factor. Mental health and substance abuse issues – of both abusers and victims – are risk factors. Isolation can also contribute to risk.

Red Flags of Abuse

Does someone you know—a senior or adult with a disability—display any warning signs of mistreatment?

Neglect

NIA ElderAbuse infographic thumbView the Spotting the Signs of Elder Abuse Infographic

• Lack of basic hygiene, adequate food, or clean and appropriate clothing
• Lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, medications)
• Person with dementia left unsupervised
• Person confined to bed is left without care
• Home cluttered, filthy, in disrepair, or having fire and safety hazards
• Home without adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heat, cooling, working plumbing, and electricity)
• Untreated pressure “bed” sores (pressure ulcers)

Financial Abuse/Exploitation

• Lack of amenities victim could afford
• Vulnerable elder/adult “voluntarily” giving uncharacteristically excessive financial reimbursement/gifts for needed care and companionship
• Caregiver has control of elder’s money but is failing to provide for elder’s needs
• Vulnerable elder/adult has signed property transfers (Power of Attorney, new will, etc.) but is unable to comprehend the transaction or what it means

Psychological/Emotional Abuse

• Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, other
• Caregiver isolates elder (doesn’t let anyone into the home or speak to the elder)
• Caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, overly concerned about spending money, or uncaring

Physical/Sexual Abuse

• Inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores or burns
• Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases

If you or someone you know is in a life threatening situation or immediate danger, call 911 or the local police or sheriff.

What should I do if I suspect abuse?

Report your concernsReport your concerns. Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation. The agency receiving the report will ask what you observed, who was involved, and who they can contact to learn more. You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals to investigate the suspicions.


 Reprinted from The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).  Used with permission.