Warning Signs

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What are the warning signs?

While physical and sexual abuse of an elder can be hard to detect, there are a few warning signs that should not be ignored. These signs are often apparent based on an elderly person’s changing appearance, moods or overall physical condition.

  • Unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two sides of the body

  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations

  • Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should)

  • Broken eyeglasses or frames

  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists

  • Caregiver's refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

In emotional abuse, there can be the presence of uncharacteristic or unexplained behavior on the part of the elderly person and the abuser.

Signs of emotional elder abuse include:

  • The elder is withdrawn and fails to participate in usual activities

  • The caregiver often isolates the elderly person and won’t let them be alone with other family members

  • The caregiver can be verbally aggressive or demeaning to the elderly person

  • The caregiver may be controlling, but not want to actively care for the elderly person

In addition to the general signs above, indications of emotional elder abuse include:

  • Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness

  • Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself

  • An unexplained sexually transmitted disease (STD)

  • Bruises on the thighs or external genitals

  • Inappropriate relationships between perpetrator and the victim

  • Engaging in unusual or aggressive behavior

  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding

  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

When there is suspicion that an elder is being neglected by a caretaker or family member, there are various signs that loved ones should look out for.

Signs of neglecting an elder include:

  • Lack of basic hygiene or clothing for the elderly person that is appropriate for the weather

  • Lack of adequate food for the elderly person

  • Missing medial aids, such as walkers, dentures, eyeglasses, medications, or hearing aids

  • Being left in bed for an extended time without supervision or care

  • The home or living area is cluttered or dirty, with appliances that are broken or covered in dust

  • The living area is lacking in the necessary amenities, such as a refrigerator, stove, plumbing, cooling, and heating, or electricity

  • The elderly person may have severe pressure ulcers or bed sores

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration

  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores

  • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes

  • Being left dirty or unbathed

  • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather

  • Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water; faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards)

  • Desertion of the elder at a public place

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder's accounts

  • Sudden changes in the elder's financial condition

  • Items or cash missing from the senior's household

  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies

  • Addition of names to the senior's signature card

  • Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although the elder has enough money to pay for them

  • Financial activity the senior couldn't have done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden

  • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device

  • Evidence of overmedication or undermedication

  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full

  • Problems with the care facility: poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff; crowding; inadequate responses to questions about care

There are things you need to look for in the behavior of the elderly person that can indicate abuse. Behavioral signs of elder abuse include the following:

  • Depressive symptoms

  • Isolating or withdrawing from others

  • Suffering from anxiety, anger, agitation or fear

  • Being ambivalent, resigned or unresponsive

  • Making up implausible stories about how an injury occurred

  • Being hesitant to talk freely

  • Being disoriented or confused

When looking for signs that financial exploitation is occurring to an elder, there are many things that may indicate this form of abuse.

Signs of financial abuse of an elder may include:

  • A lack of amenities in the elderly patient’s home that they can clearly afford

  • Having the elderly person provide excessive gifts or monetary reimbursement in exchange for care or companionship

  • The caregiver has control over the elderly person’s finances but is unwilling or unable to provide for the needs of the elderly person

  • An inability on the part of the elderly person to understand what financial transactions mean

Why don’t older people seek help when they are abused?

Some of the reasons why an older person does not tell anyone about the abuse are:

  • They blame themselves for the abuse

  • They are ashamed that the abuser is a family member

  • They depend on the abuser for support

  • They have low self-confidence and self-esteem

  • They don’t want to make a fuss

  • They are afraid that if they complain the abuse will get worse

  • They are isolated, making it difficult for them to tell anyone

  • They do not know who to tell or how to get help

  • They have dementia or an illness that prevents them from telling anyone.

If you need help

Visit One Place Family Justice Center at 530 S. Lawrence Street, Montgomery, Alabama or call 334.262.7378 or if you are in immediate danger Call 911.

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