Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a subject that needs more discussion. Elder abuse comes in different forms and usually goes unreported the National Council on Aging says that 1 in 10 of Americans over age 65 are abused in some form and only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities. Elder abuse has signs that get overlooked all the time. For a look at what elder abuse is here is the Centers for Disease and Control’s definitions.

The Epidemiology of Elder Abuse

Signs of physical abuse

Bruises, scratches, unexplained injuries, denial and short or dismissive reasons for marks on the body.

The signs of physical abuse are easy to see. When a loved one shows up with marks consistently it is probably not "clumsiness". Some other unseen signs of abuse are harder to identify.

Signs of Psychological abuse

Withdraw, sudden bouts of depression , a strain to the relationship with your loved one, and more frequent arguments with a loved one.

Psychological abuse is much harder to see than physical abuse. With someone being abused emotionally or psychologically they are intimidated or threatened. With this type of situation your loved one may feel helpless and their reaction may be to lash out at others or try to hide and avoid interactions with loved ones and friends. These are signs that you may need to speak with your loved one and try to find out what is bothering them. The reaction of lashing out and arguing and being angry toward others is just “a cry for help” or attention. This is the time to get to the root of the problem sometimes it can be depression, or they are being abused. Take the time to follow up be more involved something is wrong but sorting it out is the next step.

Signs of Financial abuse

A change in your loved one’s financial state or your loved one not being able to make decisions or be informed about their own finances or assets.

With financial abuse it can be complicated. Your oved one may not be as stable as you thought. Most financial is perpetrated by family members. Adult children should always be informed about your loved one’s finances before they get to a point of needing help. Make it a  group effort or appoint one person to handle the finances but everyone is informed so that if something is not right everyone can see, and appropriate steps can be taken.

Signs of Neglect

Loved one has bad personal hygiene or sudden weight loss and lack of needed medical equipment or supplies.

Neglect is one type of abuse that can be intentional or just happen by being uninformed. With Neglect it is someone depriving a senior of the care they need to be safe and healthy. If someone is supposed to be watching after or caring for your loved one and their personal care or medical needs are not met it is abuse. Neglect can also be self- abuse your loved one may get to the point of not being able to care for themselves and miss medications, not bath or wash clothes, or live in an unclean home. If your loved one is self-abusing with drugs or alcohol this is also a situation that you must try to take control of. Sometimes  you must take control of a situation and make sure that your loved one is cared for. If your loved one’s needs are not being met, you may have to call adult protective services. Getting involved and being there for your loved one is what you may have to do. You are the advocate for your loved one especially if someone is not caring for them the way they should.

Elder abuse happens for different reason your loved one may be suffering with dementia and may be combative or confused. Someone with dementia may accuse a caregiver of stealing or not feeding them when you witness them eat an hour before. You may have to sort out what is real and what is the disease in these situations but look for the patterns. With your loved ones’ good observation and questioning can go a long way toward keeping them safe and healthy.

What can we do about elder abuse?

Educate yourself about how to recognize the signs elder abuse. Take the time look at different resources and information and see if your loved one is showing the signs of abuse. When you start to have suspicions then it is time to find out for sure. Many people hold back when they suspect their loved one is being abused because there is nothing they can do at that time to care for them. Do not put it off or be in denial it is your loved one’s safety that should be the biggest concern. Here are more signs of elder abuse.

Time to act!

When you confirm that your loved one is being abused what is the next step?

One of the first things you can do is call Adult Protective Services in your area. 

Adult protective services can come in and investigate into your loved one’s condition so that the abuser will know that someone is concerned and that the authorities are involved now. The downside of APS is that many times it takes time for them to respond and investigate. The second drawback is that the investigator that goes is the eyes of the agency and can lead to your loved ones falling through the cracks. If you call APS, make sure to have specific and detailed information. Take notes and let APS know that this has been ongoing and observed.  

If your loved one is in immediate danger do not hesitate to call the police. You may have to set up alternative care or go yourself if your loved one can’t be left alone. Sometimes you must take these steps to make sure your loved one gets the care and safety that all seniors deserve.