Elderly man left alone in nursing home to stare out the window.
Knowing the subtle signs of elder abuse could save lives and restore dignity.
April 5, 2024
April 8, 2024

What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse can be physical, financial, or sexual in nature. By knowing the signs of mistreatment, you can help stop abuses and restore dignity to a person’s golden years.

Elder abuse is a deeply concerning and pervasive issue that affects millions of older adults around the world. Despite its prevalence, elder abuse often goes unreported and unrecognized, leaving vulnerable seniors at risk of continued harm and exploitation.

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Below, we'll delve into the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, including physical, financial, and sexual abuse. It's crucial to be vigilant and proactive in identifying these warning signs to protect our elderly loved ones and ensure they receive the care and respect they deserve. 

If you suspect that a loved one may be experiencing elder abuse, don't hesitate to report the information to local authorities, and reach out to us for guidance and support. Together, we can fight against elder abuse and seek justice for those who have been harmed.

Contact Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 for a free consultation on the actions you can take if you or a loved one have suffered elder abuse. A lawsuit could help remove dangerous actors from nursing homes, enhance safety protocols, and compensate you for medical costs or other losses related to the mistreatment.

We can work together to promote the safety, dignity, and well-being of older adults everywhere.

How to Spot the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse (3 Tips)

Here are three ways to stay vigilant and spot the warning signs of elderly abuse or mistreatment:

  1. Visit Often and Be Attentive: Regular visits to nursing facilities or your elderly parent’s home provide opportunities to observe their living conditions and interactions with caregivers or friends. Pay attention to both physical and behavioral changes in the elderly person. Notice any unexplained injuries or sudden changes in their appearance or behavior.
  2. Ask Questions: Encourage open communication by asking the elder about their well-being and any concerns they may have. Listen attentively to their responses and take note of any inconsistencies or changes in their stories. Speak with any in-home caregivers or nursing home employees about daily activities.
  3. Say Informed and Watch for Signs of Neglect: Educate yourself about the different types of elder abuse and the warning signs associated with each (listed below in this article). Look for signs of neglect, and take notice whether the elder's basic needs are being met, including access to food, water, medication, and medical care.

Overall, trust your instincts. If something feels wrong or raises suspicion, lean into that intuition and take action. Don't dismiss your concerns or assume that signs of abuse will go away on their own.

By making regular visits and watching for signs of neglect, you can effectively spot the warning signs of elder abuse and take appropriate action to protect your loved ones.

Legal Tip: Document All Findings
If you begin to notice signs of neglect or abuse, document what you see or notice, and keep detailed records of any incidents that raise concerns. Your notes, pictures, and the names of other individuals involved at certain dates or times could provide valuable evidence needed to remove an elder from an unsafe environment, or pursue a lawsuit for compensation.

You don’t have to guess about what to do — reach out to other family members, friends, or professionals for support and guidance if you suspect elder abuse. Consider contacting adult protective services for your area or law enforcement for emergencies. Contact Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 for legal advice and representation.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can manifest in various physical signs and symptoms. 

Physical signs of neglect or abuse may include:

  • Unexplained Injuries or Untreated Conditions: Noticeable bruises, welts, cuts, or other injuries that cannot be explained or are inconsistent with the explanations provided should cause concern. Also failure to seek medical attention for health issues, chronic conditions left untreated, or lack of medication management can indicate neglect or medical malpractice.
  • Malnutrition, Dehydration, or Poor Hygiene: Rapid weight loss or dehydration may suggest neglect or intentional deprivation of food and water. An unkempt appearance, strong body odor, or lack of appropriate clothing can indicate neglect or an inability to care for oneself due to abuse.
  • Fear, Anxiety, or Sleep Disturbances: Exhibiting fear or anxiety, particularly in the presence of certain individuals, or displaying signs of withdrawal from social activities may indicate emotional abuse. Changes in sleep patterns, frequent nightmares, or insomnia can be indicative of emotional distress resulting from abuse.
  • Medication Mismanagement: Overmedication, undermedication, or improper use of medications, as well as refusal to provide necessary medication, can suggest abuse or neglect.
  • Restricted Mobility: Unexplained restriction of movement, such as being tied to furniture or restrained in bed, may indicate physical abuse or neglect.

It's important to note that these signs and symptoms may not always indicate elder abuse individually, but a combination of several of these signs warrants further investigation. 

Additionally, some elderly individuals may be hesitant or unable to report abuse due to fear, shame, or cognitive impairment. This emphasizes the importance of vigilance by caregivers, family members, and healthcare professionals in identifying and addressing elder abuse. If you suspect elder abuse, it should be reported to the appropriate authorities or organizations for investigation and intervention.

Financial Abuse Red Flags for the Elderly

Financial abuse of the elderly can take many forms and can be perpetrated by family members, caregivers, financial advisors, or even strangers. Recognizing red flags of financial abuse is crucial in protecting vulnerable elderly individuals. 

Some common red flags include:

  • Unexplained Financial Transactions: Sudden or unexplained withdrawals or transfers of large sums of money from the elder's accounts.
  • Changes in Banking or Financial Documents: Changes in account beneficiaries, sudden changes in wills, powers of attorney, or other financial documents, especially if the elder seems confused about these changes.
  • Unpaid Bills or Utilities: Evidence of unpaid bills, utilities being shut off, or eviction notices despite the elder having sufficient funds to cover these expenses.
  • Lack of Financial Records: Difficulty accessing financial records, bank statements, or other important documents, or refusal to provide them to the elder or other concerned parties.
  • Missing Personal Belongings or Valuables: Unexplained disappearance of valuable items, cash, jewelry, or other possessions.

If you suspect financial abuse of an elderly person, it's important to report your concerns to the appropriate authorities, such as adult protective services, law enforcement, or financial institutions. Taking action promptly can help prevent further exploitation and protect an elder's financial well-being.

Signs of Sexual Abuse in Elderly Individuals

Signs of sexual abuse in elderly individuals can be similar to those in other age groups. However, they may present differently due to factors such as physical health, cognitive decline, or communication difficulties. 

Signs of sexual abuse to be aware of include:

  • Unexplained Injuries in Genital Areas: Bruising, swelling, or lacerations in the genital area or inner thighs may be signs of sexual trauma.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Presence of STIs in an elderly person who is not sexually active or who lacks a history of recent sexual partners may indicate sexual abuse.
  • Torn or Stained Clothing: Evidence of torn or blood-stained undergarments or clothing, particularly if there is no reasonable explanation for the damage.
  • Changes in Behavior and Sexualized Behavior: Sudden changes in behavior, such as withdrawal, depression, anxiety, or mood swings, which may be indicative of trauma associated with sexual abuse. Displaying uncharacteristic sexual behaviors or language, especially if it is inappropriate for their age or cognitive level.
  • Fear or Avoidance of Certain Individuals: Fear, avoidance, or expressing reluctance or anxiety about being alone with certain caregivers is concerning, particularly if the elder previously trusted them.

It's important to note that many of these signs can also be indicative of other health issues or conditions, so careful assessment by healthcare professionals is necessary to determine the cause. If sexual abuse is suspected, it should be reported to the appropriate authorities, such as adult protective services or law enforcement, for investigation and intervention.

Contact Elder Abuse Injury Attorneys

Whether you are a concerned family member, caregiver, healthcare professional, or community advocate, this guide is designed to empower you with the information and tools necessary to make a positive difference in the lives of elderly individuals. 

If you need to take further action after reporting suspected abuse, contact Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 for a free consultation. Learn about your legal options, and how a lawsuit could help compensate you for harms endured, and create a better environment going forward.

We are committed to protecting the rights and dignity of our seniors and ensuring that they can age with the respect, care, and security they deserve. By staying informed about the warning signs of elder abuse, you can help save lives, maintain human dignity, and make the community safer for all.

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