Hitting an older person, taking their money or ignoring a health problem are examples of elder abuse. It can happen to anyone: smart and healthy seniors or those who are confused, frail and lonely. The abuser can be a caregiver - a wife taking care of her husband, a son caring for his elderly mother, or a worker in a nursing home. Elder abuse can come from a friendly stranger on the telephone promising a free cruise or a neighborly guy who asks for cash to repair a leaky roof.
Many people keep abuse a secret. Researchers estimate that for every one case that is reported, five are not.
Victims often feel ashamed to report that a family member is hurting them, or embarrassed to admit they were tricked out of their money. And no caregiver wants to admit harming or neglecting someone they love. But elder abuse exists and it is on the rise. So it’s time to do something about it – learn about it, get help for it, report it and stop it.
Signs and symptoms
Elder abuse is complex; there is no one cause. Most likely it’s a combination of psychological, physical, social and economic factors affecting both the victim and perpetrator. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services compiled the following lists:
The state says that these characteristics may be signs of elder abuse by a family member or caregiver:
- Substance abuse
- Lack of knowledge of duties, resources, and/or services
- Stress, fatigue and/or dissatisfaction
- History of violence
- Psychological and/or physical impairments
- Poor impulse control
Signs of Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse or Active Neglect:
- Bruises, welts, fractures, rope burns, signs of hair pulling
- Unexplained STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
- Signs of malnutrition/dehydration, weight loss or dry skin
- Soiled clothing or bed linens
- Unexpected or unexplained health problems
- Unexplained paranoia
- Excessive fear
- Insomnia, sleep deprivation, or need for excessive sleep
- Signs of excessive drugging or lack of medication