How to Spot Elder Abuse

Social Worker Resource
August 24, 2012 — 1,507 views  
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Like young children, elderly citizens are at a significant risk for mistreatment and abuse. This exploitation can take place in a variety of settings, including their home, the home of a relative or a nursing facility. Although there is a variety of forms elder abuse can take, there are some common warning signs and symptoms that can help you recognize and prevent it.

Different types

Before getting into the warning signs of elder abuse, however, it is important to learn about the different shapes this devastating act can take. In addition to standard physical abuse, senior citizens can also be subject to emotional abuse, financial exploitation and neglect.

Each of these forms have their own specific types of evidence, but there are also some signs that can be indicative of elder abuse in general. Read on for some of the most telling symptoms.

Physical indicators

Perhaps the most obvious sign of elder abuse is the appearance of unexplained bruises, cuts, scrapes or other abrasions. However, because seniors are more prone to ailments and injuries, it can be difficult to root out the source of a particular incidence.

With this in mind, injuries and abrasions alone should not necessarily constitute a charge of elder abuse. Rather, these signals should be regarded as red flags and lead you to pay closer attention in the future. If warning signs do materialize, you may want to be on the lookout for a pattern of a specific type of injury or symmetrical or systematic bruises or cuts.

Emotional signals

Harder to spot are signs of emotional abuse. Elders who exhibit persistent fear, anxiety or taciturnity may be victims of emotional abuse. Trying to engage these seniors in conversation to unearth the source of their distance may yield fruitful results. However, it can be difficult to separate real from imagined slights, so it may be a better strategy to closely observe the interactions between the aged person and his or her caregiver.


According to experts, neglect is likely the most common form of elder abuse. Often unable to care for themselves, seniors can sometimes be placed in a dangerous or untoward situation through the negligence of their caregivers.

Looking for untreated sores and abrasions, excess prescriptions, uncleaned clothes and unsafe living conditions can help you spot elder neglect before it becomes a potentially disastrous problem.

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