Elder Abuse Signs

Picture3Our elderly citizens often rely on their neighbors, friends, and family members for social interaction, daily needs, and financial support.  Often times, these are the community members who are most likely going to notice the signs of elder abuse.  The best way to stop elder abuse, is to know the signs of abuse and report the abuse immediately. Elder abuse takes many forms: physical, financial, psychological, and neglect.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can range from slapping or shoving to terrifying threats or severe beatings.  Physical abuse can include hitting, beating, pushing, kicking, pinching, burning, or biting.   Often, the physical abuse may be accompanied by emotional or psychological abuse, such as name-calling, isolation, threats, or the “silent treatment.” 

Look for:

  • Unexplained bruising or scratches
  • Injury inconsistent with the explanation
  • Signs of improper restraints

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can range from the theft of property to embezzlement of the elder’s entire life savings.  Financial theft includes taking money under false pretenses, forced property transfers, purchasing items without the elder’s consent, or denying the elder access to funds.  It may include the improper use of funds under a trust document, a power of attorney, or a conservatorship.  Financial abuse also includes a variety of scams perpetrated by thieves, such as the lottery scam (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0086-international-lottery-scams), the grandparent scam (http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2016/how-to-beat-grandparent-scam.html), the IRS scams (https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts).   

Look for:

  • Unusual financial purchases
  • Diversion of mail or bank statements
  • Unfamiliar signatures on checks
  • Missing personal belongings, papers, credit cards, jewelry, prescription medications
  • Improper or extravagant use of a legal document, like a power of attorney


Caregiver neglect can range from withholding provisions from the elder to the intentional failure to provide basic necessities such as food, water, clothing, medication, or required assistance. Often, signs of neglect include dehydration, malnutrition, lack of personal hygiene, or pressure wounds.  If a caregiver also has the responsibility for providing financial care, neglect can include the failure to pay for proper care or manage the elder’s finances responsibly.

Look for:

  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Pressure wounds and bedsores 
  • Over or under medicating


As a senior ages they may lose the ability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care.  Some self-neglect can come from the inability or unwillingness to attend to one’s own personal needs or hygiene.  Other cases simply occur because the elder does not have the ability to perform self-care, such as lack of transportation, medical insurance, or safety precautions.   

Look for:

  • Failure to seek necessary medical treatment
  • Decline in mental capacity
  • Dramatic change in hygiene or appearance
  • Hoarding