Elder Abuse

While a majority of us find the notion of harming a Senior repulsive, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t those among us who would not give it a second thought.  Therefore, we must make sure that we are diligent observers when it comes to one of the most vulnerable populations of people in our society.

Abuse, unfortunately, is usually perpetrated by a family member, someone who is trusted by the Senior.  It can happen in Assisted living communities and nursing homes as well.  That is why it is so important for us to be on the lookout for the signs of Elder Abuse, recognize them and report them.

Those being abused depend on others for their daily care.  We need to protect them and report abuse.

  • Types of Abuse Too Look Out For:
  • Physical abuse/sexual abuse
  • Financial manipulation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Abandonment/Neglect
  • Health Care Fraud

Elder abuse often happens in the places where our loved ones should feel safe.  In their own homes, relative’s homes and elder care facilities.  It is incumbent on all of us to be aware of the signs of Elder Abuse and report it.

Unfortunately, a Senior who is being abused may be experiencing multiple forms of abuse at the same time. A Senior who is being physically abused may also be suffering emotional abuse as well.

Forms of Elder Abuse

Physical/sexual abuse:

This abuse can be seen on the body.  Signs to look for:

  • Unexplained bruising on the arms, legs, torso.
  • Cuts or scratches for no apparent reason.
  • The Elder exhibits pain when gentle touched.
  • Burns, broken bones (even once).
  • An unkempt appearance or dirty clothing.
  • The use of restraints when not necessary for personal safety or confinement to the home or room can also be red flags.

Sexual Abuse:

This type of abuse can also be seen on the body.  It can also be detected by bloody undergarments and/or torn clothing. Signs to look for:

  • Bruising, tenderness or bleeding from or near the individual’s genital area.  
  • The Senior being shown inappropriate sexual material(films/pictures).
  • The Senior being forced to remove their clothing can also be considered a form of sexual abuse.

Financial Abuse:

This is the exploitation of the financial resources of a Senior without their consent and/or knowledge.  Here are a number of things to look for:

  • Unexplained missing of personal possessions.
  • Missing money and/or significant withdrawals from financial accounts.
  • Forged checks.
  • Retirement account money missing or depleted.
  • Stolen credit cards and/or identity theft.

Psychological/Emotional Abuse:

This type of abuse is often the most difficult to assess.  Signs to look for:

  • Verbal harassment/intimidation.
  • Demining comments.
  • Yelling.
  • Threating or frightening the elder.
  • Ignoring the elder’s physical/emotional/psychological needs.
  • Keeping visitors away thereby isolating the elder


Neglect can come from a care giver or from the Elder themselves.  Signs to look for:

  • Personal hygiene needs are not being taken care of.
  • Nutritional needs(meals/water) are not being taken care of.
  • Clean and well-fitting clothing are not being taken care of.
  • Medications not being taken/given as required/needed.

Healthcare Fraud

This form of abuse is carried out by unscrupulous medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers.

Examples of healthcare fraud and/or abuse:

  • Medicaid fraud.
  • Charging too much for medical services or care.
  • Not providing medical care but charging for it.
  • Payments from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing certain drugs.
  • Payments from other providers for referrals.

Make sure you are on the lookout for:

  • Additional billing for the same care or services.  
  • Too much or not enough medication.

Prevention strategies

As our loved one’s age, they become less able to fully care for themselves thereby needing assistance either at home or in an Assisted living facility.  With aging, they can also suffer from memory or demtia making their ability to defend themselves against physical, emotional and financial abuse less likely.  They may also not tell on those that are abusing them due to fear of reprisal.

Things we can do:

  • Talk with our elders when no one else is around.
  • Listen to them/hear what they are saying.  Don’t dismiss their concerns.
  • Look for the signs listed above.  Keep vigilant in your observations of their physical and emotional well-being.
  • If they are in an Assisted living facility visit at various times and days.  This gives you the element of surprise with regards to the staff’s behavior and skill.
  • Report each incident of abuse that you see even those not directed or perpetrated toward your loved one.  Don’t assume that someone else will report the abuse.  Each report creates a case study for possible legal action when necessary.  You can report to your doctor, clergy, friend, someone you trust.  You can also contact the Adult Protective Services in your area.  They will look into the case, intercede on the abused person’s behalf and offer possible options to remedy the problem.

We need to understand that Elder Abuse is a large and prevalent issue for our Seniors.  It can often be misrepresented as early signs of dementia or explained away by the caregivers.  Be diligent in your observations and question/speak up and report!

Abuse can come from a friend, relative, caregiver, spouse or partner.  It can be in the Elder’s own home or assisted living facility.

Many of our loved ones may be embarrassed or ashamed to talk about the abuse.  We need to reassure them that the abuse will stop. We then must follow through on that promise.  They depend on us to help them.