Elder Abuse: Could Your Loved One Be a Target?

Caring for a senior loved one means taking complete responsibility for their comfort, safety, and well-being. Sometimes this includes doing so in spite of difficult diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or a general lack of mobility. But regardless of whether your loved one lives in long-term care facility or at home with a full-time aide, the unfortunate fact is they may be at risk for abuse or neglect. Read on to find out what constitutes these crimes and what you can do about them.

Physical elder abuse

One of the most common forms of elder abuse is physical abuse. Seniors suffering from a variety of medical conditions may be unable to defend themselves or even speak up if abuse is occurring. Common signs include the following:

  • Unexplained injuries (bruises, cuts, burns, etc.)
  • Signs of inappropriate physical restraint (such as marks on wrists or ankles)
  • Signs of chemical restraint (such as excessive or unauthorized sedation)
  • Broken bones
  • Sprained muscles

Emotional elder abuse

Senior emotional abuse is often not taken as seriously as physical abuse, but it should be. This type of cruelty and mistreatment can leave invisible scars that are just as damaging as any you see on an elder’s body. Speak up if you notice these symptoms of emotional abuse:

  • Fearful or anxious behavior (particularly around certain people)
  • Refusal to maintain eye contact
  • Reluctance to discuss health or other issues that are bothering them (for fear of the abuser learning about it and retaliating)
  • Withdrawn or apathetic demeanor (unexplained by illness)
  • Crying, moaning, and other non-verbal signs of distress (unrelated to conditions such as clinical depression or Alzheimer’s)

Financial elder abuse

Financial abuse is a type you may not hear of as often as other forms, but it is no less prevalent. Unfortunately, seniors are an age group that is seen as ripe for the picking in this regard, and for several reasons. One is because they are often physically or mentally unable to manage their own finances. Lack of oversight and control over bank accounts, checkbooks, and benefits they receive can leave them vulnerable to the greedy and unscrupulous.
In addition, many are generous with charities and other worthy causes, some of whom may not be legitimate. Finally, today’s seniors were typically raised to be more trusting of authority figures than later generations, but this trust may be misplaced if the authority is misusing their funds. Look for these indicators that financial abuse is occurring:

  • Excessive funds disappearing from bank accounts, or funds deducted that are disproportionate to the expense
  • Bills not paid on time (or not at all) if another person is responsible for the senior’s finances
  • Items missing from the senior’s living space, including jewelry, cash, electronics, and personal information
  • Sudden, unexplained changes in financial or medical documents, such as a Power of Attorney, advanced directive, or will

Elder neglect

Closely related to the concept of elder abuse is neglect. Neglect means denying basic necessities to a person, whether these necessities are food, water, medication, or even the need for social interaction. But make no mistake – neglect is no less dangerous or deadly when it comes to a senior’s health and safety. Get your elder immediate attention if you see:

  • Poor attention paid to the elder’s hygiene
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss (unrelated to medical condition)
  • Dehydration
  • Infections or bed sores that don’t heal
  • Delayed or denied medication administration
  • Dangerous or unsanitary environmental conditions
  • Unwarranted social isolation

Don’t wait to address elder abuse

If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of elder abuse, don’t wait before taking action. Doing so can permanently damage the health of a senior you care about – or worse. Call your local Adult Protective Services number right away and report it. If you’re unsure if what you’re seeing constitutes abuse, be sure to ask. When it comes to protecting the well-being of someone close to you, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

Institute on Aging

Institute on Aging

Related Posts


Give our dedicated Client Service Specialists a call. We are ready to help.

Follow Us

In honor of #SocialWorkMonth, we're shining a spotlight on one of our exceptional social workers - Patty Myers! 

Patty has dedicated her career and volunteer efforts to support older adults and adults with disabilities in San Francisco. As the Resident Services Coordinator for Institute on Aging's Support in Independent Living program, Patty wears many hats to ensure that the 120+ residents of Martin Luther Towers Senior Housing can age in place comfortably. Her talent for connecting individuals with resources has enabled her to go above and beyond to ensure accessibility and inclusivity for all. Patty's commitment to her work has been unwavering, and we are grateful to have her on our team at IOA. 

#SeniorCare #SocialWork #SupportingTheElderly #SocialWorker #SocialWork #NationalSocialWorkerMonth #Services #Coordinator #Joinourteam
Today, on #WorldSocialWorkDay, we celebrate the incredible work that IOA's #socialworkers do to support older adults and adults with disabilities. 

One of those social workers is Caina Li, whose impact on the San Francisco community far exceeds her role as a Care Manager on the IOA Case Management team. When she's not managing a caseload, Caina continues her efforts through volunteerism, specifically supporting the Richmond District Neighborhood. In the past, Caina has volunteered with the SF Marin Food Bank, Mercy Housing, and even IOA's very own Friendship Line. Thank you Caina for your ongoing commitment to IOA and for your unwavering dedication and commitment to improving the lives of those around you!
We appreciate you and all of IOA's social workers!

#SocialWork #Community #Caregivers #CareManager #CaseManagement #WomensHistoryMonth #Spotlight #TeamSpotlight #SocialWorker #CaseManager #OlderAdults #Adultswithdisabilities
As the first day of Spring arrives, we can't help but feel a sense of excitement and renewal. The Enrichment Center in the Presidio is the perfect place to celebrate the changing seasons with your loved one living with dementia. Join us and take in the beauty of Spring! 
#FirstDayofSpring #EnrichmentCenter #Presidio #NatureLovers #Dementia #DementiaCare #DementiaSupport #Caregiver #CaregiverSupport #MemorySupport
Happy St. Patrick's Day! 🍀🌈 Today, we celebrate the Irish spirit and all things green. Whether you're enjoying a pint of Guinness, wearing your favorite green outfit, or simply spending time with loved ones, we hope this day brings you joy and good luck.  May the road rise up to meet you. Sláinte! 🍻 #StPatricksDay #LuckoftheIrish #Green #Cheers #Celebration #Ageon #GoingGreen