Elder abuse: When you suspect a loved one's mistreatment
Elder abuse: Signs to look for, action to take
Elder abuse occurs when someone — usually a family member — harms an older adult.
Perhaps you suspect your elderly neighbor isn't caring for herself the way she needs to, but you aren't certain. Or maybe you wonder about some bruises you've seen on your aging uncle. You can't get rid of the nagging feeling that something's not right. But is it elder abuse?
What should you look for if you suspect elder abuse?
If you're concerned an older adult might be abused, knowing the signs and symptoms of abuse can help you determine if a problem exists. These signs and symptoms may include:
What if an older adult is hurting himself or herself?
One of the most common types of elder abuse occurs when older adults unintentionally jeopardize their own safety. Self-neglect can happen if an older adult deprives himself or herself of necessities such as food, water or medication. If the older adult is mentally competent, yet consciously makes decisions that put himself or herself in harm's way, it may be a case of self-neglect. Self-neglect often occurs in older adults who have declining health, who are isolated or depressed, or who abuse drugs or alcohol.
Signs that an older adult is neglecting himself or herself include:
Contact resources in your area if you know older adults who may be neglecting their own needs and putting themselves in danger. Contact your loved one's doctor to report your concerns. Often, helping older adults who neglect themselves involves treating underlying conditions, such as depression, or putting older adults in touch with resources designed to help them get groceries and other necessities or help them with housework. It's usually possible for the older adult to remain at home, while at the same time improving his or her safety. In some cases, a guardian might be appointed to care for the older person.
Last Updated: 01/12/2007
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