Detection of Elder Abuse


Every person deserves to be treated with respect and with caring.
Every person deserves to be safe from harm by those who live with them, care for them or come in day-to-day contact with them.(APA)

Elder abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional or psychological harm to an older adult. Elder abuse can also take the form of financial exploitation or neglect by the victim’s caregiver.

In America alone, it is estimated that 2.1 million elderly adults suffer from some form of neglect or abuse each year. Interesting, most incidents of abuse or neglect occurs in the home; to those living on their own, with spouses, children, siblings or other relatives; rather than to individuals living in institutions.

Among those that are more vulnerable to abuse or neglect are disabled, frail, mentally impaired or depressed persons.

Elder abuse is a complex problem and often difficult to detect. Increasing awareness through public education is a key initiative in protecting our older adults. Health care professionals, home care providers, family members and others who provide services should understand that the appearance of unexplained symptoms requires further investigation.

The American Psychological Association has complied a list of symptoms that may signal elder abuse.

Physical Abuse:

  1. Bruises or grip marks around the arms or neck.
  2. Rope marks or welts on the wrists / ankles.
  3. Repeated unexplained injuries.
  4. Dismissive attitude or statements about injuries.
  5. Refusal to go to the same emergency room for injuries.

Emotional/Psychological Abuse

  1. Uncommunicative and unresponsive.
  2. Unreasonably fearful or suspicious.
  3. Lack of interest in social contacts.
  4. Chronic physical or psychiatric health problems.
  5. Evasiveness.

Sexual Abuse

  1. Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding.
  2. Torn or bloody underwear.
  3. Bruised breasts.
  4. Venereal diseases or vaginal infections.

Financial Abuse or Exploitation

  1. Life circumstances don’t match with the size of the estate.
  2. Large withdrawals from bank accounts, switching accounts, unusual ATM activity.
  3. Signatures on checks don’t match elder’s signature.


  1. Sunken eyes or loss of weight.
  2. Extreme thirst.
  3. Bed sores

If you suspect elder abuse don’t be afraid to become involved, you could be saving a life. However it is important to ensure that you do not put the person in more danger confronting the suspect abuser. Every community has reporting agencies that are designated to investigate allegations or can provide help to individuals that may have the potential for abusing.

(Abuse and Neglect: In search of Solutions – American Psychological Association)

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