Recognizing the Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder SadAs a non-profit, mission-driven organization, we are dedicated to serving our elders. That includes helping to educate our local communities on issues related to older adults. One that is often under-reported is elder abuse.

Aging experts estimate that one in ten seniors have been a victim of emotional or physical abuse. One of the most disturbing statistics is that in almost 90% of elder abuse cases, a family member is the abuser. For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, the numbers are even more troubling. Half of those living with the disease have been abused by a caregiver.

The keys to stopping elder abuse include understanding the different types of abuse, being able to recognize the warning signs of elder abuse and knowing what to do if you believe an older adult is being victimized.

Types of Elder Abuse

There are five primary types of elder abuse:

  • Physical abuse

  • Neglect

  • Financial abuse

  • Sexual abuse

  • Emotional/verbal abuse

Learning the warning signs of each may help you recognize that a senior you know is being abused.

Recognizing the Signs of Elder Abuse

The most common signs that indicate a senior is being abused include:

  • Frequent bumps, bruises and “accidents”

  • Strange injuries or skin marks such as friction marks and welts

  • Weight loss

  • Dehydration

  • Unclean living environment

  • Bed sores

  • Poor hygiene and soiled clothing

  • Depression

  • Withdrawing from social activities

  • Anxious acting around caregiver

  • Unusual purchases on credit or debit card

  • Lack of knowledge about their finances

  • Bruises around wrists

  • Bruises on or around private areas

  • Genital infections or diseases

A few other caregiver behaviors that may be warning signs of a problem are:

  • Refusing to let people visit the senior without the caregiver being present

  • Talking for the senior and not allowing them to speak

  • Limiting contact with friends and family

If You Suspect Elder Abuse

If you suspect a senior is in immediate danger, call 911 without delay. It is the fastest way to get them out of an unsafe situation.

Another avenue for help is Adult Protective Service (APS) agencies. These state agencies are the best place to report your concerns to. They will visit the senior in person to determine whether or not there is a problem, and follow up appropriately.

Elder abuse occurs in all communities and to people of all ethnic and social backgrounds. Knowing the warning signs can help keep the elders in your life safe.