Warning Signs of Elder Abuse and How to Report it

  • by Nina Plonka RN, BSN, Director of Long Term Care Insurance

If you are a health care provider or work with the elderly, it’s important to understand the signs of elder abuse to help protect seniors. Making accusations about abuse is very serious and cannot be made abruptly or without thought. As a Health care worker, if you are unsure of the signs you are considering to be abuse, you should share your feelings with a professional or a supervisor. Recognizing elder abuse can be difficult, so we’re providing the following signs to look out for:

Physical abuse

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

Emotional abuse

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

Sexual abuse

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

Neglect by caregivers or self-neglect

  • 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

Financial exploitation

  • 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

Healthcare fraud and abuse

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
  • Evidence of overmedication or under-medication
  • 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

Unfortunately Elderly Abuse happens more often than we realize and can take many forms. If you are an elderly person being abused, similar to a child, you need to tell someone and report it. Talk to your doctor, pastor, rabbi, caregiver, friend, or someone you take confidence in.  If you are an elderly person who sees signs of elder abuse and neglect again it needs to be reported. To report suspected abuse, call the Florida elder abuse hotline at 1-800-962-2873 (TDD 1-800-453-5145). You can give your name or remain anonymous. Remember NO one deserves to be mistreated, neglected, or abused. REPORT IT!

Also be sure to check out our article on the 6 Types of Elder Abuse

Posted in: Caregivers, Elderly Care, Family Issues

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