elder abuseIt’s tragic, but it happens all the time. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, especially as they start to lose some of their physical and mental capabilities. The more dependent they become on those around them, the more opportunities there are for them to suffer abuse, most often at the hands of those they love and trust the most. If you’re worried about a senior citizen in your life, whether it’s a family member, or just someone you’ve seen around the neighborhood, here are some warning signs of elder abuse you should be looking out for.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is probably the easiest to spot. It includes things like bruises, broken bones, burns, inadequate explanations for the injuries, and isolation. If the caregiver doesn’t let others visit the senior citizen alone or at all, it’s a red flag that something’s up and the caregiver doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Taking them to multiple medical facilities is another indication that there’s something fishy going on. It means they don’t want the doctor or nurses to suspect why this elderly patient needs treatment for so many injuries.

Sexual Abuse

It’s awful to think about, but it happens. As with other forms of abuse, senior citizens are often unable to fend off their attackers, making them targets for sexual predators. The signs can be harder to spot, as the physical damage often occurs in places that tend to be covered up, such as the breasts, groin, and anus. Some of the more noticeable signs include trouble standing and/or walking, evidence of STDs, and signs of being depressed or withdrawn. If the caregiver appears flirty with their charge or is touching them inappropriately, that can also be an indication that something is not right.


Sometimes abuse can be unintentional, but it’s still abuse. If the caregiver is overworked, stressed, and/or uneducated about the kind of care their charge needs, it can lead to neglect. Failure to give them the proper medicine if/when they need it, or to provide medical aids, such as a cane or glasses, can all be signs of neglect. Clothes that are constantly dirty, unchanged diapers, and bedsores are all signs of neglect.

Verbal/Emotional Abuse

Abuse isn’t always physical. Sometimes words can hurt more than daggers, but senior citizens are often unable to stand up for themselves or too frightened to do so. They may not even know they are being abused or they may be afraid of the consequences if they do speak up. Victims of emotional abuse are often withdrawn and apathetic; nervous and/or fearful, especially around the caregiver; and there may be signs that the relationship between the caregiver and their charge is especially tense or strained. The caregiver snapping or yelling at their charge is an obvious indication of abuse, but it might not always be that evident. If the senior citizen is exhibiting unusual behavior, such as rocking or nail-biting, especially if it was something they’ve always done when nervous or uncomfortable, contact a professional for help.

Financial Exploitation

As the elderly tend to lose their mental faculties, it’s common to have a trusted person take over their finances for them. The importance of that person’s trustworthiness cannot be emphasized enough because, for some people, the temptation to use those funds for their own gain is difficult to overcome. Other people may need to be added to the senior citizen’s bank accounts and/or credit cards so they can access them to pay for the patient’s care. But, be cautious because new additions to those accounts can also be a red flag that the primary recipient is not the owner of the account. If this is followed by an increase in activity on these accounts, especially for purchases the senior citizen would not normally make, there’s a strong possibility of financial exploitation.

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