Our Blog

How To Recognize Signs of Elder Abuse

It’s a top priority for most adults to ensure that a parent or elderly loved one is well looked after by an accountable caregiver. Yet, multiple studies estimate that more than 1 in 10 seniors in the United States have experienced elder abuse.

An elderly adult may be embarrassed, scared or unable to talk about a case of abuse that he or she is experiencing. If any of these warning signs are relevant to an elderly person you know, there may be cause for alarm. For more information, contact a Columbus nursing home abuse lawyer today.

Elder abuse can occur in nursing homes, retirement homes, in private homes, and elsewhere. No matter where it occurs, it should be taken seriously.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is defined as a “knowing, intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult,” according to the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Elder abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual and includes instances of exploitation, neglect or abandonment. These offenses can go undetected easily because they happen at the hands of trusted individuals, such as professional care facilitators, family members, friends or neighbors.

If any of the following red flags spark your concern, your loved one may be at risk for suffering elder abuse:

Acting out of the ordinary

It can be difficult to tell if an adult is acting out of the ordinary, especially since approximately 5.1 million American elders over 65 display some degree of dementia. However, abnormal behavior is a major indicator of elder abuse and should not be dismissed. Pay close attention to any drastic changes to the adult’s behavior, such as:

  • Becoming far less social
  • Suddenly ending routine behaviors
  • Over- or under-utilizing prescribed medications
  • Growing very tired more often or more quickly
  • Experiencing mood or mood swings that were not common before

Change in appearance

Abuse can take a toll on a person’s appearance in many ways. Some cases are easier to see than others. Express your concern if you are noticing any of the following signs of abuse:

  • Bruises, cuts or other marks indicating physical harm
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • A sudden change in usual cosmetic choices (wardrobe, makeup, hair color, etc.)

Signs of an unsafe environment

Are you able to spend time with the adult alone in their current living environment? A caregiver who refuses to allow visitors to see the adult alone may be hiding something. Make sure your loved one is entitled to private conversations.

Also, be sure to keep an eye out for clear hazards and unsanitary living conditions in a nursing home or home environment. These issues point to a negligent caregiver and may cause your loved one to become sick or hurt.

Is the caregiver a family member?

Unfortunately, the caregiver abusing the adult is “most likely to be adult children or spouses,” according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for a relative that was largely uninvolved in the adult’s life, but has suddenly shown interest in the adult’s rights, affairs and possessions.

The perpetrator is also likely to have the following traits:

  • A history of past or current substance abuse
  • Mental or physical health problems
  • A history of trouble with the police
  • Socially isolated
  • Unemployed or having financial problems
  • Experiencing major stress

Sudden changes in finances

One in 18 older “cognitively intact” adults falls prey to financial fraud or abuse in a given year, according to a 2017 study. The following circumstances warrant reasonable suspicion of financial elder abuse:

  • Sudden asset transfers to another individual
  • Disappearance of funds or valuables
  • Changes to a will, bank accounts or financial documents

Resources and help are available. You can also help spread awareness and support for elderly victims coping with these heinous crimes this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15.