Elderly Abuse and Neglect

Warning Signs and Prevention Tips

Caregiver stress can sometimes lead to elderly abuse and neglect. The number one thing you can do as a caregiver is to recognize signs of stress in yourself and deal with it.

The National Center on Elder Abuse has published a fact sheet on the relationship between caregiver stress and elderly abuse and neglect.

It is an overwhelming job to take on the daily care of your loved one.

Most family caregivers are also caring for their own families. Many still have to work outside of the home. Taking on the role of caring for an elderly relative adds to the work load.

Elderly abuse and neglect takes on many forms, some of which you may not realize. Although laws vary from state to state, most states have criminal penalties for the abusers.

According to the NCEA, elder abuse a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.

Types of Elder Abuse

  • Physical Abuse: This is the most easily recognized abuse form. Warning signs include bruises, broken bones, burns and abrasions. Any unexplained or frequent injuries can be a sign of physical abuse.

  • Verbal Abuse: This includes yelling, screaming and belittling an elder person. Depression and withdrawal from normal activities and social contacts can be a sign that the elder person is suffering from verbal abuse.

  • Sexual Abuse: Although you may not even be able to imagine it, and most of us can't, it does happen. Warning signs can include bruising around the breasts or genitals. Take any report of sexual abuse very seriously.

  • Financial Abuse: Any sudden change in an elderly persons financial situation can be a warning sign of financial abuse.

  • Neglect: Failure to provide food, health care, shelter and protection are all types of neglect. Warning signs can include bedsores, unusual weight loss and poor hygiene.

  • Abandonment: This includes deserting a vulnerable adult whom you have agreed to care for.

  • Self Neglect: Sometimes there is nothing you can do to encourage a vulnerable adult to perform self care. In that instance, you will need to contact your doctor and get assistance from a local agency.

Protect Yourself and Your Loved One

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from ever being accused of abuse, and protect your loved one from ever suffering from abuse is this:


Even if you believe what you are trying to do is in the best interest of your loved one, you cannot force your loved one to do anything.

You can encourage and prompt. You can plead and bribe. You can offer to make an apple pie AFTER your loved one takes a shower. But you cannot physically force.

Unfortunately, there will most likely be times when you are honestly concerned about their well being but cannot convince them to do things that are in their best interest.

If that time arrives, to protect yourself and provide support for both you and your loved one, talk to their doctor. Get recommendations from you local Area Agency on Aging. Talk to your family and friends and let them know what is occurring and what you are doing about it.

If people are kept informed and know that you are doing all you can, you are less likely to be accused of elderly abuse and neglect.

If you are accused, provide adult protective services with a complete list of the intervention you have tried and what the results were.

But if you believe that a loved one under someone else's care is being abused, report it immediately to the local police department. They will know exactly how to proceed to assure that a complete investigation is done.

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