Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse

Every year, millions older Americans suffer physical abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Many suffer in silence, too afraid or intimidated to draw attention to their suffering. Often they are often being tormented by caregivers who are responsible for providing their meals and attending to their personal needs.

As a relative of friend of a person living in a nursing home or assisted care facility, it is up to you to recognize the signs of elder abuse and take action.

Signs of Abuse or Neglect

The National Center on Elder Abuse has prepared a simple, two-page guide to this problem. It describes the signs of different types of abuse and tells concerned people what to do when they suspect abuse. You may wish to print this document for reference or to pass it on to a family member or friend.

Some of the most common signs of elder abuse are:


  • Lack of basic hygiene, or dirty clothing
  • Lack of medical aids such as glasses, hearing aid, walker, or false teeth
  • Filthy conditions in the home or living quarters
  • Home in disrepair, or inadequate heating, cooling, plumbing, or cooking facilities
  • Presence of pressure ulcers (bed sores)

 Physical or Sexual Abuse

  • Unexplained bruises, abrasions, fractures, cuts or other injuries
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases

Psychological Abuse

  • Unexplained changes in behavior, such as withdrawal or lack of alertness
  • Caregiver isolates the elder person or limits access by other persons
  • Caregiver is verbally abusive, controlling, or demeaning
  • Caregiver is overly concerned about financial expenditures

Financial Abuse

  • Elder is deprived of amenities he or she could afford
  • Vulnerable person pays caregiver excessive fees or gives excessive gifts
  • Caregiver has control of elder’s finances but is neglecting the needs of the elder
  • Elder has signed Power of Attorney, transferred title to property, or named caregiver in a new will

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, neglected or exploited, the website for the Illinois Department of Aging explains what to do and who to contact. You may also want to contact an attorney to determine if you can take legal action against the person or persons responsible for your loved one’s suffering.

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

If you are in downtown Chicago this Thursday, June 15, you may notice that some of the office buildings are illuminated with purple ribbons. This is in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield and JP Morgan Chase.

Established by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, the purpose of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is to raise public awareness of the problem and stimulate thinking on ways to deal with it. When you see the purple ribbons, think of those who are suffering and what you can do to help.


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