Know the Signs: Protect the Elderly from Abuse

Around five million frail and vulnerable older adults are abused yearly, and sadly, millions more go unreported. They’re not able to take care of themselves properly, so they’re prone to abuse and bullying that can cause physical and mental illnesses.

Elder abuse can also lead to destroyed family ties, financial loss, and depression. They are also more likely to be hospitalized compared to those who are not mistreated. When left unchecked, constant abuse can even cause death.

Abusers can be members of the family or not, so make sure you entrust the care of your older relatives to trustworthy people and safe facilities. Seek help from senior care advisors for safe living arrangements and avoid any form of abuse for you and your loved one’s peace of mind.

Common Types of Elder Abuse

Psychological Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse happens when a caregiver causes emotional pain for the elderly. It can be difficult to detect as it doesn’t cause visible marks compared to physical abuse. It can range from verbal or nonverbal acts like threats, insults, humiliation, or intimidation. Some signs that an older adult experiences psychological abuse are:

  • Anxious or withdrawn
  • Often scared or disturbed
  • Prevented from deciding for themselves
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Low self-esteem
  • Can’t talk openly and avoids eye contact

About one out of six older adults has experienced abuse in the past year. It’s vital to report psychological abuse to the authorities or healthcare providers as they can provide safety and proper treatment. The abused elderly need to talk with a counselor or take certain medicines that can help them relax and sleep better.

Financial Abuse

Some elderly who experience cognitive impairment trust people to take care of their finances. However, some of them may cause abusive actions like cashing in pension checks, stealing money or property, or deceiving the person into signing documents. Unfortunately, some cases may go on for many years before the perpetrators get caught.

Financial exploitation can make the elderly lose their life savings, which can make them emotionally destructive and depressed. Be aware of these warning signs and report any cases of elder financial abuse:

  • Missing property or money
  • New changes to the elder’s will
  • Increase in unpaid bills
  • Large amounts of fund transfers or bank withdrawals
  • Certain withdrawals that can’t be explained to the elder

Physical Abuse

Any form of violence that results in physical pain, illness, or impairment to the elderly may cause long-term injuries or even death. Some caregivers, whether family or not, are likely to commit abuse if they are also exposed to abuse, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or have a mental illness.

These are some signs that an elder is experiencing physical abuse:

  • Bruises, welts, or lacerations
  • Rope marks or other signs of being restrained
  • Significant weight loss
  • The elder or caregiver’s sudden change in behavior
  • Open wounds or other untreated injuries
  • Excess or insufficient doses of prescribed medications
  • Unexplained accidents or injuries

The elderly have a greater risk for physical abuse, as they require extra attention that can frustrate their caregivers. Make sure to carefully select the people who will take care of them by speaking with them in person and doing an intensive background check.

Neglect or Abandonment


Elder neglect can happen anywhere. The person responsible for caring for the elder may leave them alone, give them improper amounts of medicines, or fail to bathe and feed them regularly. It usually happens when the carer lacks knowledge of how to provide proper care or intentionally fails to fulfill their obligation.

Whether intentional or not, neglect is a form of abuse. The elderly may experience malnourishment, depression, or other health problems if they continue to be neglected. Immediately report any cases of elder neglect as it is a life-threatening problem.

All older adults deserve a safe and loving environment to continue to have a quality life regardless if they have physical, mental, or emotional challenges. However, they become more vulnerable over time, increasing their risk factor of experiencing abuse. Make sure your elder loved one forms good relationships with other people to serve as their line of defense against abusers.

When you notice any changes in an elder’s behavior, you should immediately question what’s going on and keep on asking as most elders are afraid to speak out. Alert authorities of your suspicions or seek medical attention to ensure their safety. Always keep your communication lines open, and don’t delay reaching out to experts to avoid any situation getting worse.

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