The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that approximately five million seniors are abused each year, with only 25 percent of those cases reported to authorities. The NCOA defines elder abuse as physical, financial, emotional, or sexual abuse with signs of exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. While elderly abuse may occur in a care community, the NCOA found that children, spouses, and other family members comprise nearly 90 percent of elderly abuse cases. Learn the key indicators of elderly abuse and ways you can help your aging loved one transition to a safe environment.
Signs of neglect – Seniors who can no longer complete daily tasks such as bathing and eating need help caring for themselves. Neglecting to assist them with these needs is a form of abuse whether carried out intentionally or passively. Caregivers responsible for passive neglect often lack the proper training or simply feel overwhelmed with other responsibilities. You can identify neglect if you notice your loved one always appears to go without bathing, wears dirty clothes for several days, or sits in soiled undergarments for an extended amount of time. Bedsores, significant weight loss, and a lack of medical care also indicate neglect.
Financial exploitation – The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports one in every twenty seniors has been financially exploited in the last decade. Signs of financial exploitation include any changes in financial situations, such as money disappearing, unpaid bills, an increase in the use of credit cards, frequent cash withdrawals, unusual purchases, and adding someone to a bank account or credit card. Aging adults tend to be more susceptible to financial exploitation due to a loss of cognitive abilities and an increase in the number of scams that prey on seniors. However, many banks, government agencies, and identity protection companies can help protect your parent or loved one from financial exploitation.
Physical abuse – Elderly abuse most commonly takes the form of physical abuse. Signs of physical abuse include broken bones, bruises, burns, and abrasions. You can also identify physical abuse if your aging parent or loved one comes up with strange explanations for their injuries that don’t fit the severity of their injuries. Other less noticeable symptoms of abuse include treatment from multiple medical centers and not being allowed to visit with your aging loved one without the abuser’s presence. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) offers several resources for reporting abuse, such as hotline numbers, emergency contacts, and legal assistance.
Emotional abuse – With dementia and chronic illnesses advancing in seniors, emotional abuse can be easily hidden from family and friends. Emotional or verbal abuse can range from verbal insults and attacks to threats of physical harm. Victims of this form of abuse often withdraw suddenly from daily life. Unusual, nervous, and forced isolated behavior can also indicate your loved one has experienced emotional abuse. If you suspect your aging parent suffers from emotional abuse, report it immediately. You can also call and visit often to build the trust your loved one needs to confide in you.
Sexual abuse – You can identify sexual abuse by bruising in private areas, unusual difficulty walking or standing, and excessive touchiness by the caregiver. If you would like to move your aging loved one to a safer environment, consider a transition to an Assisted Living or Memory Care community. You can speak with an OurParents Senior Living Advisor about senior living communities in your area that meet your loved one’s needs.
Too many instances of elder abuse go overlooked, so you must teach yourself to recognize common indicators of neglect as well as other telltale signs. If you suspect elderly abuse, report the abuser immediately, and move your parent or loved one to a safer environment. You can also research national organizations, such as the NCEA, for more information on elder abuse and ways you can help.