Elder abuse can take place in many forms – physical, verbal, emotional and financial. While physical elder abuse can often be evidenced in person (although not always), verbal, emotional and financial elder abuse can happen insidiously and often goes undetected for long periods of time.
Whether you look in on a loved one on a regular basis, or live across the country and are only able to visit every once in a while, the following information can help you to determine whether or not your senior loved one is a victim of elder abuse. Never hesitate to begin an investigation the minute you suspect elder abuse.
8 Signs of Elder Abuse
- Constant and repeat bruising, injury or broken bones. True, senior citizens are more prone to bruising from even the mildest of bumps or knocks that occur in day-to-day activities. Yes, the elderly are also apt to lose their balance and/or fall more easily. But, if you feel like accidents occur more frequently than normal, it’s worth looking into.
- An unusual dynamic with a caretaker. Pay attention to his/her relationship with the caregiver(s). If your loved one seems afraid, tense, excessively argumentative or withdrawn around the caregiver, it can be a sign of abuse or mistreatment.
- Sudden financial difficulty. Financial elder abuse is one of the most common, and silent, forms of elder abuse. Sometimes it’s as simple as a caregiver or family member who keeps the change for grocery bills or writes frequent small checks to him/herself. In worst case scenarios, entire savings accounts can be drained, lines of credit can be taken out in the senior’s name and then maxed out, etc. The effects can be devastating. If you notice a sudden and unexplainable shift in a senior relative’s finances, take note. Try to keep personal/sensitive documentation out of caregiver’s hands and range of access.
- Unusual depression or sudden withdrawal. Verbal and/or emotional abuse is another silent from of elder abuse. Adults who are experiencing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s, may not be able to communicate what is happening. In cases of sexual abuse, the individual is often too embarrassed or ashamed to come forward. If your loved one becomes unusually quiet, withdrawn or depressed – especially if it’s over a relatively short period of time, take time to investigate.
- Rapid weight loss or lack of energy. Sometimes, the abuse happens via neglect, rather than any physical or verbal impact. Sudden weight loss, dehydration, or a rapid decline in energy can be signs of malnourishment and neglect.
- Bed Sores. If the senior is bed-bound, it is imperative that he or she is moved on a regular basis to keep the blood flowing and the skin from becoming irritated. A neglected, bed-ridden senior will end up getting bed sores on the areas of the body that are in contact with the mattress.
- They are dirty and/or smell badly. A well-cared for senior should have their hygiene needs met on a daily basis. There is no excuse for being dirty, smelling bad, or having to wear soiled clothing. This is a sign of caregiver neglect.
- Poor living conditions. If your elderly relative is living in a senior care facility, the environment should be clean, orderly and aesthetically pleasing. Dirty, dingy, or facilities with old, malfunctioning equipment should be considered suspect.
Never ignore the signs of elder abuse – take action!
Before you sign the dotted line, make sure you hire a home healthcare provider who has an excellent reputation and reviews, and who screens caregivers thoroughly to help your senior loved ones get the attentive care they deserve.