Elder Abuse - Topic Overview
Risk factors for elder abuse
Abuse of elders is a
complex problem with many contributing factors. Risk factors include:
- Domestic violence carried over into the elder
years. A substantial number of elder abuse cases are abuse by a
- Personal problems of caregivers. People who abuse older
adults (particularly their adult children) are often dependent on the older
person for financial help and other support. This is often due to
personal problems such as mental illness or other dysfunctional personality
traits. The risk of elder abuse seems highest when these adult children live
with the older person.
- Social isolation. Caregivers and family
members who live with an older person have the opportunity to abuse and often
attempt to isolate the older person from others to prevent the abuse from being
Signs of elder abuse
Signs and symptoms of elder
abuse vary widely depending on the type of abuse.
- Signs that an older person is the victim of
acts of violence may include:
- Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations,
rope marks, cuts, punctures, or untreated injuries in various stages of
- Broken bones, including the skull.
dislocations, or internal injuries.
- Broken eyeglasses or
- Signs of being restrained.
- Laboratory reports
of overdose or underuse of medicines.
- Reports from the older
adult of being physically mistreated.
- An older person's sudden
change in behavior.
- A caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see
an older person alone.
- Symptoms of possible sexual abuse include
bruises around the breasts or genital area, unexplained venereal disease or
genital infections, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, underclothing that is
torn or stained, and reports from the older person of being sexually
- Emotional or psychological abuse is possible if the
older person appears emotionally upset or agitated; acts withdrawn or is
noncommunicative, nonresponsive, or paranoid; exhibits unusual behavior
including sucking, biting, and rocking; or if he or she reports being verbally
or emotionally mistreated.
- Signs of neglect may include
dehydration, malnutrition, untreated health problems, pressure ulcers, poor
personal hygiene, hazardous or unsanitary living conditions, and reports from
the older person of being mistreated.
- Abandonment includes the
desertion of an older person at a hospital, nursing facility, shopping center,
or other public location.
- Signs of financial exploitation include
sudden changes in a bank account or banking practice, such as unexplained
withdrawals of large amounts of money; additional names on an older person's
bank card; abrupt changes in a will or other financial document; disappearance
of funds or valuable possessions; unpaid bills or substandard care despite the
availability of funds; evidence of the older person's signature being forged;
the sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives; payment for
unnecessary services; and reports from the older person of financial