How to Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse

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With an increasing population of elderly as a result of the Baby Boom generation, statistics show that elder abuse is more prevalent than ever. According to the Administration on Aging every year an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as five cases go unreported. One study recognized that for every case of elder abuse reported to agencies nearly 25 go unreported!

You might be surprised to know that most abusers are not professional caregivers.  Most elder abusers are family members of the abused.

Elder abuse will happen, but everyone can act to protect seniors.

Abuse of an elderly person take many forms.  Elder abuse takes many forms, be aggressive or non-responsive in nature, but can be distilled down to three main categories:  physical, mental or financial. If you observe any blatant signs of abuse — name-calling, threats, intimate contact, unreasonable restraints, withholding of food or medication, etc. — you should take immediate steps to stop it.

Elder abuse, however, is rarely that obvious.

Many of the conditions and events listed below may be caused by occurrences unrelated to abuse, but then again maybe your relative is being abused. Use this basic elder abuse checklist to quantify possible signs. If you notice the following occurrences or conditions, it is important to carefully monitor your relative’s care or alert the authorities. To report suspected abuse,  contact your local adult protective services agency. For state reporting numbers, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

Be mindful that an accusation or even suggestion of elder abuse is a very serious thing, and should not be undertaken lightly or carelessly.

Physical or mental abuse may be causing the following conditions:

Unexplained agitation

Depression or withdrawal

Hesitation to talk openly

Fearfulness of caregivers

Confusing or contradictory statements by an otherwise competent senior

Resignation or denial of conditions

Recurring or unexplained injuries

A combination of new and old injuries

Implausible explanations of injuries or conditions

Denial of an injured state

Injuries without underlying diseases, or incompatible with medical history, including cuts, lacerations, puncture wounds, bruises, welts or discoloration

Any injury that looks like it may be have been caused by cigarettes, caustics, acids, friction from ropes or chains or contact with other objects

Poorly treated or untreated injuries

Injuries in areas usually covered by clothing

Poor skin condition/poor skin hygiene/lice

Absence of hair and/or hemorrhaging below the scalp

Dehydration or malnutrition that is unrelated to illness

Loss of weight

Soiled clothing or bedding

An environment that is excessively dirty or smells of feces or urine

Inadequate clothing
Financial abuse may be causing the following conditions:

A sudden lack of knowledge about financial matters

A sudden refusal to make financial decisions or pay bills without consulting another person

Unusual or inappropriate banking activity

Signatures on your relative’s checks or other financial documents, particularly when your relative can no longer write

The creation of a power of attorney or will, when your relative is incapacitated

Numerous unpaid bills and overdue rent when someone is supposed to be handling your relative’s finances

Lost valuables

Caregiver behavior that should raise suspicion of abuse includes:

The caregiver does not allow your relative to speak for herself

The caregiver does not allow your relative to visit with others out of the caregiver’s presence

The caregiver expresses that your relative’s injuries or undesirable behavior is deliberate or self-inflicted

The caregiver has a history of abusing others

The caregiver has problems with alcohol or drugs

The caregiver is inappropriately affectionate or sexual

The caregiver restricts the activity of or isolates your relative

The caregiver’s explanation of an injury or incident conflicts with your relative’s account

The caregiver is unwilling or reluctant to comply with instructions from other care providers

The caregiver is inappropriately defensive when asked to explain an injury or occurrence

The caregiver has unjustified control of your relative’s finances

The caregiver refuses services that your relative needs

The caregiver is unusually concerned about the amount of money being expended on your relative’s care

 Please protect seniors and join us in taking a stand against elder abuse this year! Visit and commit to do something extra this year to raise awareness in your community about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation!

About Elder Care Advice blog

Get professional elder care giving advice, advocacy, education and tips for those who care for and about the frail elderly at the ElderCareAdvice blog. We are generously sponsored by Most posts are written by Cathleen V. Carr, unless attributed otherwise. We welcome relevant submissions. Submit your article and by-line for publishing consideration (no promises!) to Havi at, our own editor who will ensure submissions are given the best possible treatment and polish before publication, ensuring a professional level of publication. There is a nominal service fee involved ($45). Allow up to 30 days for publishing.
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