Noticing signs of elder abuse and neglect

The last thing you want is to see a loved one hurt or mistreated, particularly by those entrusted with their care. Too often there are cases of abuse and neglect or the elderly by caretakers, nursing home employees and other residents of a care facility.

As the loved one of an elderly person, your attention to and persistence for spotting signs of abuse may be a critical factor in ensuring their safety and care. Some symptoms and signs of mistreatment are obvious while many others are more difficult to notice. Consider some of the potential symptoms of abuse or neglect and remember this knowledge as you check in with elderly loved ones.

Types of elder abuse

Mistreatment presents in a variety of ways, many of which are not obvious to the casual observer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize elder abuse in a few categories. These are the most common forms of mistreatment of a person over age 60.

  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse

It’s difficult to provide an accurate rate of elder abuse and mistreatment as it often goes unnoticed or unreported. Experts estimate about 10 percent of people over age 60 experience some form of mistreatment ranging from financial exploitation to neglect and abandonment.

It may be easier to spot signs of physical abuse and general neglect as these will present with obvious injuries or a disheveled and unkempt demeanor. Poor hygienic care can be a sign of neglect and abandonment as the person isn’t receiving proper care. To notice less obvious signs of abuse, loved ones need to pay close attention and have open, safe conversations with elderly persons.

Sudden mood changes, lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, being standoffish around certain individuals and unexplained weight loss may be signs of mistreatment. Pay attention to these and other behavioral changes and keep an open dialogue so a victim can report their experience. It’s often frightening and intimidating for victims to speak up, so it’s important that loved ones keep a close eye on their behalf.

Mistreatment of vulnerable populations

Abusers target already vulnerable persons for mistreatment at an alarming rate. Common targets of elder abuse include those with memory issues or dementia and those with little to no familial connection or support. For those who already lack a support system, there’s an added risk as no one will closely monitor their wellbeing.

Your elderly loved one deserves proper treatment and safety as they receive additional, needed care. If you notice or suspect signs of mistreatment, be their advocate and get the medical and legal support your loved one needs. No one should have to experience mistreatment from those entrusted with their care. Watching for signs of elder abuse and neglect can give your loved one the best chance of proper treatment in their later years.

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