11 Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse

Author: Aidan Morrison
A female caregiver bends down to talk to a patient in a wheelchair

Each year, millions of older Americans are subjected to exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Despite this, elder abuse remains one of the most under-acknowledged and under-reported public health threats. The Department of Justice reports that 10% of the population over the age of 60 has experienced some kind of abuse.

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as a "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Types of elder abuse

Elder abuse can be broken down into 5 distinct types:

  • Physical: This could come in the form of hitting, punching, slapping, restraining, confining, burning, kicking, giving excessive or improper medication, or otherwise hurting a senior.
  • Sexual: Forcing a senior to participate in sexual acts or conversations against their will, or in the case that they can no longer give consent.
  • Emotional or psychological: This might be the act of humiliating a senior or ridiculing, shunning, or aggressively yelling. Emotional abuse can also take the form of coercing an older person to take a particular action using threats.
  • Neglect (including self-neglect): Depriving a senior of proper medical care, food, heat, clothing, comfort, or needed services.
  • Financial exploitation: The misappropriation of financial resources by family members, caregivers, or others. This often includes using financial means to control a senior or to threaten them 

Signs of elder abuse

Some key signs and symptoms of elder abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Recurrent injuries
  • Reluctance of senior to go see a doctor
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Report of drug overdose or failure to take medicines
  • Signs of restraints on legs or wrists
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Missing possessions or cash
  • Unusual withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Unsafe living conditions

What can be done?

To start, it’s important to talk about elder abuse with family members, caregivers, community members, and seniors themselves. Sharing the signs and symptoms of elder abuse will allow us all to be more vigilant.

Elder abuse is a large and growing problem that demands our attention and action. You can help by learning the signs of abuse, by staying connected with older adults in your life, and by reporting suspected abuse. In Massachusetts, you can report suspected elder abuse anytime, day or night, by calling (800) 922-2275 or by filing a report online.

Hebrew SeniorLife operates the first and only abuse shelter program for seniors in Massachusetts

Hebrew SeniorLife’s Center for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect provides emergency shelter and support services to seniors suffering from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. In addition to providing emergency shelter, the Center works with those affected by elder abuse to connect them to health care, social, and financial resources. Older adults can access these services whether or not they are staying in our shelter. To make a referral, inquire about services, or explore education opportunities, visit the Center’s website.

Please consider donating to help seniors impacted by elder abuse. We wouldn’t be able to offer this incredible resource without the help of our donors.  You can help us shelter victims, provide services, and reach community groups.

Give a Gift Now

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About Aidan Morrison

Marketing & Communications Generalist

Aidan Morrison is a Marketing & Communications Generalist at Hebrew SeniorLife, where he works as a part of a team creating and sharing blog content, email newsletters, and social media posts. Prior to joining the Hebrew SeniorLife team in May...

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