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A senior woman with her chin in her hand, looking sad. Learn more about identifying elder abuse.

How to Identify the 5 Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a widespread problem, and all too often it goes underreported. In fact, the National Council on Aging estimates that only about 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities. Even more concerning, perpetrators of elder abuse are often people close to the victim who you might not suspect – this includes family members like a spouse or a child as well as caregivers such as nurses and physicians.

This tragic reality makes it absolutely essential to know how to identify elder abuse so that you can report it appropriately. Learn how to identify the five most common types of elder abuse.

Identifying Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force or coercion resulting in injury, impairment, or physical pain.

Seniors suffering physical abuse will often show signs such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Missing daily living aids, such as glasses or a cane
  • Unexplained injuries, including bruises, cuts, and sores

Identifying Neglect

Neglect refers to a caregiver or other individual’s failure or refusal to fulfill their obligations to care for an elder. This includes a failure to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection.

Signs of neglect include:

  • Unusual weight loss
  • Bedsores
  • Unattended medical needs
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unsanitary living conditions

Identifying Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse includes the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress either verbally or nonverbally.

To identify emotional abuse, watch for signs such as:

  • Isolation
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Strained or tense relationships
  • Frequent arguments between the senior and their caregiver
  • Unusual changes in behavior or sleep patterns

Identifying Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is defined as the illegal or improper use of a senior’s funds or assets. It’s important to note that this also includes the improper use of conservatorship or power of attorney.

Watch for signs of financial abuse such as:

  • Fraudulent signatures on documents
  • Unpaid bills
  • Unusual or sudden changes in spending patterns
  • Failure to keep appointments
  • Sudden changes to a will or other financial documents

Identifying Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older adult, including, but not limited to, touching, intercourse, or other sexual activity where the older adult is unable or unwilling to consent.

Signs of sexual abuse of an elder can include difficulty moving or sitting, which can be caused by bruises or injury to the genital area.

Understanding how to properly identify and report elder abuse is absolutely vital in helping to protect the safety and security of our senior relatives and loved ones. For more information on identifying and reporting elder abuse, visit the National Council on Elder Abuse.

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