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Protect the Seniors You Love: Know the Signs of Elder Abuse

The rate of senior abuse in America is sobering: 1 in 10 people over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, a number reflecting at least 5 million elders abused each year. Sadly, only 1 in 14 cases of abuse is brought to the attention of police. 

Abuse of a senior citizen can occur in a nursing home, in the senior's own home or anywhere else where care is provided to elders. Protect your senior loved ones by learning some common signs of abuse:

Physical abuse--Physical abuse can take many forms, such as hitting, shaking or restraining someone, giving more or less medication that is prescribed or not addressing health and safety hazards. Look for bruising or wounds, signs of malnutrition and dehydration, depression or other negative changes in mood or untreated injuries consistent with a fall.

Emotional or mental abuse--Abusive caregivers will purposefully inflict emotional pain and distress, such as verbally assaulting, threatening or otherwise harassing the senior. Look for signs of abuse like withdrawal from social activities, a sudden change in mood (increased anxiety or depression), problems with sleep or appetite, or acting fearful in the presence of the abuser.

Sexual abuse and assault--Non-consensual sexual contact with a senior or a person who cannot give consent due to a disability can result in torn or stained undergarments, wounds or bruising on genitals or breasts, the presence of an STD or having problems walking or sitting comfortably.

Neglect or deprivation--Neglect can be passive (unintentional) or active (intentional). Signs of neglect include unsafe or unsanitary living spaces, infestations of vermin, inadequate heating or air conditioning, lack of medical aid such as a hearing aid or dentures or untreated/unmonitored infections or injuries.

Financial abuse--A financial abuser will find ways to exploit a senior for their assets, including gaining access to bank or retirement accounts or making changes to wills and other legal documents. An abuser will also steal information that allows them to perpetrate identity theft. Look for possessions disappearing, recent legal or financial documents that can't be explained, eviction notices and unpaid bills, or unexplained bank withdrawals or transfers.

If you notice signs of elder abuse with a loved one, you're right to protect them and seek help. Bring your concerns to their nursing home manager or the authorities and speak with a trusted attorney in your area who can help you with your questions and determine next steps.

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