Elder Abuse: Warning Signs and What to Do

Elder abuse, as unthinkable as it is, happens every day. Although it is quite common in nursing homes, it also occurs in the nursing homes themselves, where they are cared for by caregivers or even other family members.

If you suspect that someone you care about—your parents, grandparents, or neighbors—is the victim of elder abuse, here are the signs to look out for and what to do about it.

Elder Abuse Warning Signs

The two general signs of elder abuse are:

1) Frequent tension or arguments between the older person and the caregiver.

2) Changes in the behavior or personality of the elderly.

There are various forms of elder abuse, and each can show specific indicators.

These are some of the most common:

physical abuse

  • unexplained injury

  • Signs of being attached, such as rope marks

  • Broken personal effects such as glasses.

financial exploitation

  • Unexplained or significant activity in the elder’s account, especially withdrawals

  • Missing household items or money

  • Unpaid bills despite having enough money

  • Suspicious changes to wills, titles, and similar documents

emotional abuse

  • The caregiver displays belittling, controlling, or threatening behavior even when you are around

  • The old man displays behavior that mimics dementia, such as murmuring and rocking

sexual abuse

  • Bruises around sensitive parts of the body

  • Unexplained genital infections or venereal diseases

  • Torn or stained clothing


  • Unusual weight loss, dehydration, or malnutrition

  • Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions

  • Being left dirty or physical conditions left untreated

What to do if you suspect elder abuse

As soon as you see strong warning signs or suspect that an older person is being abused, report it. If you believe there is immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911 or your local police. If there is no immediate danger but abuse is occurring or has occurred, contact Adult Protective Services (APS) in the state where the elder resides. You can use your Eldercare Locator by calling 1-800-677-1116.

When reporting elder abuse, be prepared to answer questions about matters such as the elder’s known medical problems, existing family or social supports, and sometimes their identification.

In addition to informing the authorities, the important thing you can do is make the elder feel safe and cared for. Visit or call as often as he can. If possible, volunteer to stay with the elderly and let the caregiver take a break.

You may also want to speak with an elder abuse attorney to see if there are any legal steps you can take regarding the matter. Visit LegalReach.com to find a senior citizen attorney who can help you.

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