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Signs of Abuse

Gray colored stop sign.If you believe that an elderly person is in imminent danger, call (800) 752-6200 or your local law enforcement agency immediately. If the person is not in imminent danger but you are suspicious, watch the way the caregiver acts toward the elderly or disabled person. Look for a pattern of threatening, harassing, blaming or making demeaning remarks to the person — or isolating the person from family members and friends. Watch for an obvious lack of helpfulness or indifference, aggression or anger toward the person. Listen for conflicting stories about the elderly or disabled person’s illnesses or injuries.

Learn to recognize the following signs of self neglect, caregiver neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and financial abuse.

 

Neglect

  • Obvious malnutrition, dehydration
  • Dirty, uncombed hair and offensive body odor
  • Torn and dirty clothes that are not appropriate for the weather
  • Unshaven
  • Hoarding
  • Lack of glasses, dentures or hearing aid
  • Lack of medical care
  • Apparent weight loss
  • Bedsores
  • Recent suffering or loss of spouse, family members or close friends
  • Exterior or interior of the home in poor repair
  • Filthy living environment, strong odors
  • Little or no food in the refrigerator, or decayed and moldy food
  • Many pets or animals who appear neglected
  • Garbage or litter; excessive alcohol containers
  • Unkempt lawn or walks
  • Mail or newspapers not taken in

 

Physical Abuse

  • Frequent injuries such as bruises, burns, broken bones, especially when the explanation of the injury seems unrealistic
  • Multiple bruises in various stages of healing, particularly bruises on inner arms or thighs
  • Chronic or acute physical illness
  • Pain on being touched
  • Obvious malnutrition, dehydration
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Many medicine bottles in sight; seems sleepy, sedated
  • Appears frightened or withdrawn
  • Never leaves the house; never allowed visitors
  • Never mentions family or friends
  • Confined to a chair or bed
  • Locked in a room or tied up
  • Clothes that are not appropriate for the weather

 

Sexual Abuse

  • Evidence of sexually transmitted disease
  • Irritation or injuries to the mouth, genitals or anus
  • Upset when changed or bathed
  • Fearful of a particular person
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control

 

Emotional/Psychological Abuse

  • Isolated from family and friends
  • Sudden dramatic change in behavior: appears withdrawn, depressed, hesitant to talk openly
  • Caregiver won’t let victim speak for herself
  • Caregiver scolds, insults, threatens victim
  • Trembling, clinging
  • Fearful, hopeless, anxious
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Confused, disoriented
  • Angry, agitated

 

Financial Abuse

  • Unusual activity in bank account; sudden large withdrawals, expenditures that are not consistent with past financial history
  • Use of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) when the person has no history of using ATMs or cannot walk or get to an ATM
  • A recent Will, when the person seems incapable of writing a Will
  • Rights signed away on legal papers without understanding what the papers mean
  • Unpaid bills, such as house payment, rent, taxes, utilities
  • Lack of food, clothing, or personal supplies
  • Title to home signed over in exchange for a promise of "lifelong care"
  • Missing personal belongings such as art, silverware, jewelry, TV

 

Last Updated 5/31/2007
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