Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is an umbrella term used to describe several different forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional or psychological abuse (e.g. humiliation, intimidation, or threats)
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Financial or material exploitation
  • Healthcare fraud and abuse

Every year, tens of thousands of elderly Americans are abused in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, and even in facilities responsible for their care. Most often this abuse occurs at the hands of a person known to the victim – a relative, caregiver, neighbor, etc. Recognizing the signs of elder abuse is the first step toward bringing an end to it. Here are some signs to look for:

Physical Abuse

  • Unexplained signs of injury such as bruises, welts, or scars
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  • Drug overdose
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

Emotional Abuse

  • Threatening, belittling, or controlling behavior by caregiver
  • Withdrawal and irritability of the elder person

Sexual Abuse

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing


  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • Desertion of the elder at a public place

Financial Exploitation

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition
  • Items or cash missing from the senior’s household
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
  • Addition of names to the senior’s signature card
  • Unpaid bills or lack of medical care

Healthcare Fraud and Abuse

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
  • Evidence of overmedication or undermedication
  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full
  • Insufficient staffing

The law provides for civil remedies for those subjected to elder abuse. Elder abuse is also a crime and the law imposes obligations on certain individuals to report cases of elder abuse.

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