10 Signs of Elder Abuse that May Surprise You


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Elder abuse. A scary subject you don't want to think about if you have a parent or senior relative that's living on their own. It may seem impossible to experience abuse if they're on their own, but elder abuse can come in many forms. Some of which may surprise you.

What is Elder Abuse?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, elder abuse is described as knowing, negligent or intentional actions that cause harm or risk to an older adult. Abuse can include emotional or physical mistreatment, plus negligence, exploitation or even self-neglect.

Signs of elder abuse

10 Signs of Elder Abuse

1. Having to Choose Between Food or Medicine

Sadly, some older adults feel forced to choose between spending money on their medications or eating. According to Feeding America, seniors that have food insecurity are at an increased risk for developing chronic conditions. A fear of going hungry may cause some older adults to skip taking their medications in order to make them last longer or even cancel their doctor's appointments. The same may occur in reverse. If an older adult has a chronic condition that requires medication, he or she may skip eating some meals.

2. Health Decline Related to Isolation

Feeling lonely, due to isolation can affect a senior's mental and physical health. Feelings associated with loneliness have been linked to a quicker decline in an older adult's cognitive abilities. When adults don't meet their social needs, it can lead to some serious effects. Keep an eye on your loved one's social calendar to ensure he or she is interacting enough to meet the basic need for human companionship. All Methodist Retirement Communities take pride in providing an active social calendar which ensures everyone's social needs are met.

3. Silent Treatment

If your loved one lives on their own, it's important to make sure he or she is socially active. Older adults that do not experience adequate social interaction, could become depressed or develop impaired mobility.

4. Scams and Exploitation

Unfortunately, older adults are often scammed or exploited by unscrupulous persons who play on common fears.. Scammers often use the telephone as a weapon against seniors. Some of these criminals are so adept at what they do, they're able to to convince seniors to mortgage their homes to participate in scams. Scammers also use scare tactics to con money out of seniors by impersonating well-known companies or charitable organizations to fool their victims. To help elderly loved ones avoid being scammed, help them understand how scammers operate. Add caller ID to their telephone service or install a caller ID system to help loved ones avoid answering calls from unknown persons. Finally, be sure your loved ones know to never provide personal information to any caller, and when in doubt, advise them to hang up. These tips, along with constant vigilance on your part, can help your loved ones avoid becoming victims.

5. Self-Neglect

You may think, how can the person I love abuse themselves? If an older person refuses any form of care, this is a form of self-neglect. There are many signs that can indicate self-neglect that include:

  • Animal infestations
  • Medication mismanagement
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Dehydration

Maintaining contact with your friend, parent or grandparent is an excellent way to monitor for self-neglect.

6. Suspicious Changes

If you notice any changes, be wary. Altered wills, trusts, unusual withdrawals from the bank or checks that are written out as "gifts" could indicate exploitation by a caregiver, neighbor or someone else. If a senior becomes withdrawn from his or her normal activities or takes on a higher sense of alertness, this is a change that should be taken seriously. Offering to help with finances is an excellent way to monitor bank accounts without having to pry.

7. Healthcare Fraud

This form of abuse is carried out by unethical doctors, hospital staff, nurses or other if healthcare providers. It can occur as:

  • Charging for healthcare services that were never performed;
  • Overcharging for services;
  • Over or under medicating;
  • Medicaid fraud.

8. Anyone is at Risk

Elder abuse can happen to any older adult. However, some are at a higher risk than others. Seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia are more at risk for abuse from home-based caregivers, family or scammers. Trust your loved one's care to only certified Alzheimer's and dementia care communities to help avoid abuse from untrustworthy facilities.

9. There are No Federal Laws

There are no federal laws against elder abuse in the United States, but all states have adopted laws aimed at dealing with the abuse, exploitation and neglect of seniors. While the laws are different from state-to-state, some states have created laws to protect seniors that live with family members and those living in nursing homes or long-term care centers.

10. There is Adult Protective Services

Adult Protective Services investigates the allegations and provides the support and assistance the victims need. Some APS agencies will respond to reports of self-neglect while others do not. APS works closely with other community agencies in confirmed abuse cases to ensure the wellbeing, health and safety of the elder abuse victim. In the case of criminal prosecution, law enforcement will take the lead in the case.

If You Suspect Elder Abuse

If you have suspicions the senior in your life is experiencing some form of elder abuse, you should contact the police or your community's adult protective service agency immediately. You will be asked the victim's name, address, contact information and the cause for your concern. It's likely the authorities will also ask for your contact information.

Methodist Retirement Communities Will Protect Your Loved One

At all of the Methodist Retirement Communities, you can have the peace of mind knowing that your loved one will be safe and cared for respectfully. We provide the highest quality of healthcare to our residents in assisted living and memory support. In addition to committing ourselves to the highest level of integrity and standards in care, each community is proactive in ensuring staff is kind and compassionate, appropriately trained, and fit for the job demands. To learn more about what we can offer the senior(s) in your life, check out our different communities: