How to Recognize Senior Abuse

How to Recognize Senior Abuse. An elderly woman looking out the window.

Elder abuse is often hidden. Someone may not identify what is happening to them as abuse. They may cover up the signs due to fear of what may happen if anyone finds out. Perhaps they are unaware that the person’s actions are a form of abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines elder abuse as “an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving the risk of harm to an older adult.” According to the CDC, abuse occurs at the hands of a caregiver or someone that the elderly person trusts.

What are the forms of elder abuse?

Elder abuse may happen only once or become a regular event over time. The abuse may be in the form of:
• physical – slapping, hitting, pushing, kicking, and so on
• psychological – emotion, threats of harm, lack of human contact
• sexual – all unwanted sexual acts
• financial – theft, fraud, and coercion involving wills, among other things

There are signs of abuse to look for, which include:
• poor general hygiene and weight loss
• indications of helplessness and fear
• unexplained bruising, open wounds, fractures, and untreated injuries
• questionable financial or legal documents, or the disappearance of those documents

Who can help?
According to the National Institute on Aging, elder abuse will not stop. Many older adults are too ashamed to report the abuse. Or they are afraid it will cause the situation to become much worse. If you are concerned that someone is being abused, find a time to talk with him or her privately about it and voice your concerns. Intervention can be difficult, but it’s better to do so sooner rather than later. Report abuse or suspected abuse to local adult protective services, long-term care ombudsman, or the police. Use the National Center on Elder Abuse Listing of State Elder Abuse Hotlines to find your state’s reporting numbers, government agencies, state laws, and other resources: https://ncea.acl.gov/Resources/State.aspx

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Sources:

Preventing Elder Abuse. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Internet]. CDC.gov. [cited 2021 Nov 23]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/fastfact.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fviolenceprevention%2Felderabuse%2Fdefinitions.html

Elder Abuse.  [Internet]. NIA.NIH.gov. [cited 2021 Nov 23]. Available from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/elder-abuse

National Center on Elder Abuse Listing of State Elder Abuse Hotlines. Available from: https://ncea.acl.gov/Resources/State.aspx