Spotting the Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse, defined by Wikipedia as, "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person,” is a serious problem in this country. It affects one of the most vulnerable segments of our population – our senior citizens. Learning how to identify elder abuse is an important job for any senior caretaker, either family members or others.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) approximately 1 in 10 Americans 60 years or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Also from NCOA, some estimates range as high as 5 million elders are abused each year and one study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities and the perpetrators go undetected. National Council on Aging Facts Sheet

Elder abuse takes many forms and includes physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse and elder neglect. These abuse forms can take place in the senior’s home, while at the homes of relatives and friends, and in senior care facilities such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes.


The common warning signs of elder abuse are unusual and often sudden changes to an elderly person’s mental, physical, or financial well-being. Specific signs vary depending on what type of elder abuse the victim is experiencing. Below are five of the most common indicators you should look for in an elder to help determine if they are suffering some kind of abuse. 

Physical elder abuse ...

is self-explanatory – it means the infliction of physical pain or injury on the body of a senior. Among the indications of physical abuse are broken bones, cuts, burns and head injuries (with or without concussions). A senior will often make up an improbable story of how an injury occurred; this is a warning sign to look for.

Emotional elder abuse ...

includes verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment or intimidation. It can result in anxiety, anger, depression, confusion or fear. IF suffering this type of abuse, the senior may be reluctant to talk freely about it. Signals to look out for include isolation or withdrawing from family members, friends or caregivers, since the abuse may come from a member of any of these groups.

Financial elder abuse ...

includes someone misusing or withholding an elder’s financial resources. Financial abuse may be by family members or other persons that the elder trusts. Warning signs of this type of abuse include money missing from bank accounts without a reasonable explanation, the inability of an senior to access his or her financial records, giving money or gifts in exchange for companionship, financial transactions that cannot be explained, stolen assets by a third party, such as an ATM card or forged checks, taking control of financial resources (including identity theft) and undue influence on the senior to perform tasks such as changing a will or entering a strange business transaction.

Sexual elder abuse ...

is sexual contact with an elder without their consent. The signs that this may be occurring include genital thigh bruises; bleeding, pain, or irritation of the genitals; and the appearance of an unexplained sexually transmitted disease. This type of abuse may occur through an inappropriate relationship between a caregiver and an elder.

Elder neglect ...

means the failure of a caregiver to provide a senior with life’s necessities. Food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, are included in these necessities. Elder neglect can happen in the home of a family caregiver, in a nursing home or at an assisted living facility as well as in the elder’s own home when under a caregiver’s care. Neglect manifests itself in multiple ways including, but not limited to, the following:​

  • Lack of basic hygiene, adequate food, or hydration

  • Malnourishment or an unexplained weight loss

  • Bedsores or pressure ulcers

  • The senior being left in bed for an extended period  of time without proper supervision or care

  • Missing medical aids, walkers, dentures, eyeglasses, medications, or hearing aids

  • Unclean or unsafe living conditions

The risk factors for elder abuse include age, with elders over the age of 80 most vulnerable, and gender, women being more likely to suffer abuse and more severe types of abuse. The elder’s health also contributes to abuse, with persons having physical and mental impairments (such as dementia) most susceptible. Be wary of a live-in caregiver who receives financial support from the elder as well as a caregiver with substance abuse problems or a criminal record – these individuals are more likely to commit abuse. Finally, elders who live alone (aging in place) are more likely to suffer abuse than those who live with other people.


Abused elders should have the ability to quickly contact family members or friends for assistance, even if the circumstances do not permit the elder get to a phone. One way to get in touch with trusted help is with a medical alert device that is on the elder’s person, either in the form of a pendant or wristband. To this end, GoFind Inc. is in final development of NudgeR.


NudgeR helps keeps an elder safe automatically. If your senior shouts "help,” pushes the SOS button, or falls, NudgeR automatically sends text messages to up to four trusted contacts and optionally a 24x7 live call center. The senior thus has a way to communicate abusive circumstances and obtain assistance quickly and easily.


For more information about NudgeR visit

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