What are the signs of elderly abuse?

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In 2010, the National Center on Elder Abuse verified nearly 6 million incidents of abuse towards victims age 65 and over. The sad truth is that the majority of elder abuse cases go unreported. In Utah, only 1 in 10 cases are reported, according to Utah Adult Protective Services. It’s safe to assume that similar numbers exist all across the United States. So in reality, there could be upwards of 60 million incidents of elderly abuse each year in the US.

Elder abuse comes in many forms, from physical to mental and beyond. The signs vary and can be as subtle as gradually increasing self-neglect to as obvious as unexplained cuts and bruises.

That’s why it’s important to recognize signs of abuse.

What are the types of elder abuse?

The most common type of elder abuse is self-neglect, where an older person refuses necessary care. Other types of elder abuse include physical abuse from a perpetrator, exploitation (often financial), caretaker neglect, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.

Many elder abuse cases go unreported due to the victims fear of losing support from an abusive family member or caretaker. Imagine the dilemma of a victim whose abuser is a beloved family member. An elderly person might fear the removal or possible incarceration of the family member. This is not only an unwanted outcome of reporting abuse, but it could also lead to the elderly person being left alone to care for herself or being forced to live in a nursing home.

Signs of abuse

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, fractures or other injuries
  • Bruises in multiple stages of healing
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of self determination
  • Becoming withdrawn, fearful, passive or other changes in personality
  • Becoming depressed, hopeless or socially isolated
  • Soiled clothing and linen

Signs of neglect & self-neglect

  • Dehydration and malnourishment
  • Soiled or inappropriate clothing
  • Odorous
  • Unclean living environment
  • Improperly medicated
  • Deserted, abandoned, improperly looked after
  • Lack of medical necessities, etc.

Signs of exploitation

  • Missing property
  • Frequent or recent property title changes
  • Frequent or recent will changes
  • Excessive bills
  • Forced to sign over control of finances
  • No or limited money for food, clothes and other amenities

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