As your loved ones grow old, with every year they often depend more and more on others to care for them. This opens up the possibility of abuse, not only from caregivers but also from family and “friends”. Abuse can be active or passive. Although your loved one may be too frightened or ashamed to talk about it, the signs and symptoms of elder abuse are often obvious if you know how to recognize them.
Risk Factors for Elder Abuse
The most important risk factors for elder abuse are:
- Over 80 years old;
- Lives alone, or lives with a caregiver who depends on your loved one for financial support, abuses drugs or has a criminal record;
- Poor physical health or dementia.
A risk factor is a circumstance in which an outcome is statistically more likely. If risk factors are present, watch for the elder abuse indicators described below.
What Are The Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?
The signs and symptoms of elder abuse vary from case to case, but recognizing some of the common warning signs may help prevent it.
Physical Elder Abuse
Signs of physical elder abuse are easy to recognize. They include:
- Bruises and welts;
- Head injuries and concussions;
- Sores or pressure marks;
- Bone fractures;
- Cuts and scrapes.
This is not an exhaustive list, since elder abuse can cause many types of physical injuries. Because a victim might not tell you about the abuse, you should check your loved one regularly for injuries. Don’t rely on a caregiver to safeguard their physical health because the caregiver might be inflicting the injury.
Emotional Elder Abuse
Signs of emotional and psychological abuse in the elderly should not be ignored. Emotional elder abuse can harm your loved one as much as physical abuse. Some of the most common signs of elder abuse include:
- Unexplained anxiety, anger, depression, fear, or hostility;
- Unwillingness to speak freely, especially about whoever is inflicting the abuse;
- Isolating or withdrawing from other people.
Financial Elder Abuse
Financial elder abuse is a form of theft. Some of the most common warning signs of elder financial abuse include:
- Large amounts of money missing from a bank account;
- Missing belongings;
- Unnecessary loans;
- Unexplained use of credit cards.
Elders suffering from dementia are particularly susceptible to financial elder abuse.
Sexual Elder Abuse
Consensual sexual activity does not constitute abuse. Often, however, an elder cannot grant meaningful consent, just as someone under the age of consent is incapable. Some signs of sexual elder abuse include:
- Bladder or bowel incontinence;
- Internal injuries;
- Bruises or bite marks, particularly around the neck, breasts, or genitals;
- Bleeding around genitals, chest, rectum, or mouth;
- Torn or bloody bedding or underwear;
- Anxiety or disgust when in the presence of the abuser.
Elder neglect is a passive form of abuse that can be devastating, or even fatal. Imagine a caregiver depriving your loved one of food, or neglecting to bathe them. Some telltale signs of elder neglect include:
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Wearing inadequate clothing for the weather or temperature;
- A dirty or unsafe environment;
Most caregivers are compassionate and hard-working. Unfortunately, some are abusers. Because of this sad reality, it is important to recognize the warning signs of an abusive caregiver as soon as possible.
- An indifferent, angry, insolent, or aggressive attitude toward your loved one;
- If the caregiver is a relative, failure to show affection;
- Inconsistent explanations for your loved one’s physical injury;
- A history of substance abuse, criminality, domestic violence, or mental illness;
- Attempts to isolate your loved one;
- Flirtatious or sexually suggestive words and actions.
Preventing Elder Abuse
If you are a caregiver and recognize some of these signs in yourself, or if you find yourself exasperated and hostile toward the person in your care, then you are in the best position to prevent elder abuse. Recognizing the problem is the first step.
Preventing Elder Abuse as a Caregiver
Here are some steps you can take if the stress of caregiving has you overwhelmed:
- Avoid overwork. Get help from friends or family;
- Get plenty of rest;
- Schedule several breaks each day to recharge;
- Seek outside help for depression or anxiety;
- Join a support group for caregivers of the elderly.
Preventing Elder Abuse as a Friend or Neighbor
As a friend or neighbor, there is only so much you can do to protect an elder from abuse. Regardless of whether you observe the symptoms of elder abuse, however, do as much as you can:
- Stop by or call often;
- Offer to help when you can;
- Learn the warning signs of elder abuse, and report anything suspicious.
How to Report Elder Abuse
If you are being abused, commit to telling at least one person – perhaps your friend, your doctor, or a family member. You can also call your local office of Adult Protective Services. If you suspect someone else is being abused, report it without delay to Adult Protective Services.
Even if there is no immediate response, keep reporting additional incidents of abuse. Multiple reports can serve as powerful evidence of abuse.
Need Help With Your Elder Abuse Case?
If you notice the symptoms of elder abuse in your loved one or their caregiver, the time to act is now. The experienced Northern California elder abuse lawyers at Barr & Young can help you protect your loved one. Contact us online or call us at (925) 660-7544 ASAP.