Recognizing and Stopping Elder Abuse

Did you know that 1 in 10 adults over age 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited? Abuse can happen in many places, including the older person’s home, a family member’s house, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home. The mistreatment of older adults can be by family members, strangers, healthcare providers, caregivers, or friends.

At LifeCare Advocates, we’re trained in recognizing the signs of elder abuse. Whether an older person is living at home or elsewhere, we can help assess the situation objectively and provide assistance and advocacy to resolve care issues. It’s also important for family members or other caregivers, both near and far, to be able to recognize the signs of abuse. Here is some guidance from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

Types of abuse

There are many types of elder abuse, ranging from general neglect to financial or sexual abuse. For more information about the possible types of abuse, read the NIA information here. You should also look into local resources such as your state’s adult protective services agency (find yours here) for reporting suspected abuse. If you think someone is in urgent danger, call 911 or your local police to get help right away.

Signs of abuse

You may see signs of abuse or neglect when you visit an older adult at home or in an eldercare facility. You may notice the person:

  • Stops taking part in activities he or she enjoys
  • Looks messy, with unwashed hair or dirty clothes
  • Has trouble sleeping
  • Loses weight for no reason
  • Becomes withdrawn or acts agitated or violent
  • Displays signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth
  • Has unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, or scars
  • Has broken eyeglasses/frames, or physical signs of punishment or being restrained
  • Develops bed sores or other preventable conditions
  • Lacks medical aids (glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, medications)
  • Has an eviction notice for unpaid rent, notice of late mortgage, or home eviction
  • Has hazardous, unsafe, or unclean living conditions
  • Displays signs of insufficient care or unpaid bills despite adequate financial resources

Stopping abuse

Many older adults are too ashamed to report mistreatment. Or, they’re afraid that if they make a report it will get back to the abuser and make the situation worse.

If you see signs of abuse, talk with him or her when the two of you are alone. You could say you think something is wrong and you’re worried. Offer to take him or her to get help, for instance, at your local adult protective services agency.

Most importantly, get help or report what you see to adult protective services. You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring. Professionals will investigate.