Elder abuse, as unthinkable as it may be, happens every day. Though it is quite common in nursing homes, it also occurs in elders’ own homes where they are attended to by caregivers or even other family members.
If you suspect that someone you care about – your parent, grandparent, or neighbor – is a victim of elder abuse, these are the signs to watch 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 elder person and the caregiver.
2) Changes in the elder’s behavior or personality.
There are various forms of elder abuse, and each may show specific indicators.
These are some of the most common:
- Unexplained injury
- Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks
- Broken personal effects such as eyeglasses
- Unexplained or significant activity in elder’s account, especially withdrawals
- Items or money missing from the household
- Unpaid bills despite having enough money
- Suspicious changes in wills, titles, and similar documents
- Caregiver displays belittling, controlling, or threatening behavior even when you are around
- Elder displays behavior that mimics dementia, such as mumbling and rocking
- Bruises around sensitive body parts
- 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 being left untreated
What To Do If You Suspect Elder Abuse
As soon as you see strong warning signs or suspect that an elder person is being abused, report it. If you believe there is immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911 or the local police. If there is no immediate danger but the abuse is occurring or has occurred, contact Adult Protective Services (APS) in the state where the elder resides. You can use their Eldercare Locator by calling 1-800-677-1116.
When reporting elder abuse, be prepared to answer questions on matters such as known medical problems of the elder, existing family or social supports, and sometimes, your identification.
Aside from reporting to authorities, the important thing you can do is to make the elder feel safe and cared for. Visit or call as often as you can. If possible, volunteer to stay with the elder and let the caregiver take a break.
You may also want to talk to an elder abuse attorney to see if there are legal steps you can take regarding the matter. Visit LegalReach.com to find an elder attorney that can help.