Elder Abuse: Types, Signs, and How To Report? 2023

Let’s get one thing out of the way from the get-go: elder abuse is a universal problem, and its vile influence can reach into any kind of setting where an older adult is under the care of another. Elder abuse takes place in family settings with caretakers too exhausted to tend to their older adult’s needs properly.

It takes place in adult day care settings, where older adults are neglected or outright insulted by their caregiver for the day, made to feel small and powerless. And of course, it happens in nursing homes, where ne’er-do-wells find their way onto the hospital staff and take advantage of their charges in a variety of harmful ways.

The reason this needs to be stipulated is because people will read an article (like this one), and either assume that the writer is being alarmist (which is fair, as the topic can be sensationalized easily), or take an alarmist tone themselves, refusing to consider intensive care that their older adult may need out of the fear they could wind up in a bad situation.

Both extremes can be harmful in their own right, as the problem of elder abuse is a ubiquitous fact of the industry, despite the best efforts of organizations and interest groups looking to quash it altogether.

No matter what kind of care setting you put your older adult in, there’s a chance they’ll run into someone looking to do them harm.

However, you can learn to recognize the signs of elder abuse so you can recognize it if something untoward starts happening when you aren’t around. With that in mind, let’s go over some of the most common signs of elder abuse.

Remember, however, that this is not an exhaustive list: if something about how your older adult is being treated smells fishy, don’t be afraid to give your nursing home a closer look.

Signs of Neglect


Contrary to what most people imagine when the subject of elder abuse is brought up, neglect is actually among the most common forms of elder abuse, as neglect is also one of the broadest forms of elder abuse.

In short, elder neglect is when your older adult’s caretaker fails to do their job and meet your older adult’s needs: this can take many forms, including failing to make sure your older adult maintains healthy eating, sleeping, and hygiene habits, failing to help them with tasks they need assistance with, and failing to help them get out and socialize.

Sudden changes in weight, apparent sleep deprivation, the presence of bedsores, or rapidly declining hygiene are all common signs of neglect: if you notice your older adult exhibiting any of these signs, don’t be afraid to investigate.

Unexplained Bruises or Repeated Accidents

Part of your older adult’s caretaker’s job is to make sure that the potentiality for accidents to occur is limited, and if an accident does happen (because let’s face it, no one is infallible, and older adults tend to be prone to accidents), that accident does not repeat itself.

If you notice that your older adult has been the victim of the same accident more than once, or even more frequently, you may want to look into it, and the same goes for any bruises or broken possessions that turn up without reasonable explanation.

It is entirely possible, if not probable, that physical abuse is taking place and the facility is covering it up: it has happened before, and so it’s best to prepare for every eventuality.

Shady Financial Agreements and Missing Assets

Financial abuse is not often thought of in the same category as physical abuse, but it is every bit as horrible and prevalent in the industry. Financial abuse is when your older adults’ caretaker takes advantage of them and gains unlawful access to their assets, and takes the form of missing possessions, mysterious checks written out to the caretaker, financial agreements without backing paperwork, and the like.

Your older adult’s finances should always be supervised by you, especially if they have conditions that make it difficult to keep track of their finances themselves. If you notice any irregularities, take a closer look as soon as possible.

The goal of this article is not to inspire fear in the reader, but to inform and educate in the event of the worst case. With the right information and a plan in the event your older adult suffers from abuse, you will be properly prepared to protect them if necessary.

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