Spotting the Signs of Elder Abuse

by Jeffrey J. Downey, Esq

Elder abuse is a severe issue for older people. The National Institute on Aging reports that many older people are abused yearly. Elder abuse can come from a family member, friend, or caregiver. As a result, it is critical to be aware of the warning signs of elder abuse and to know what to do if you believe a loved one is a victim.

How to Spot the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse might be difficult to spot. Unaccounted-for bruises or broken bones are two clear signs. Some symptoms, however, may be harder to spot or may be confused for other cognitive or behavioral issues.

Untreated bedsores, poor hygiene, weight loss, depression, and unexpected social retreat are typical indications of elder abuse. Even though many of these symptoms may have various underlying reasons, any changes in your loved one’s personality or physical state need to be treated carefully.

You should also be alert to any warning signals because a caregiver may be abusive. These are the warning signs to watch out for whether your parent or loved one is being cared for by a family member or a professional caregiver:

  • Avoiding showing an older person affection.
  • Acting in an inappropriate or hostile manner toward an elderly person.
  • Preventing the elderly person from conversing with guests alone.
  • A history of violence, substance abuse, or mental illness.

Signs of Different Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can occur in various ways, including neglect, financial abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and physical assault. Elder abuse rarely occurs in a lone instance, and other forms of abuse might occur simultaneously. If you suspect abuse, you should hire an elder abuse attorney to investigate the issues and protect the senior’s rights.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse shows in a variety of ways, including:

  • Providing elderly people with subpar care when they can afford better
  • Using a senior’s ATM card or taking money without their consent
  • Alterations to court documents
  • Unaccounted-for or substantial cash withdrawals.
  • Untrustworthy signatures on checks or other documents

Signs of Neglect

You can notice signs of neglect in several ways, such as:

  • Dehydration or malnutrition.
  • Abandonment
  • Elopements from the building
  • Pressure wounds or bed sores
  • Unexplained bruising or injuries
  • Untreated wounds or bed sores
  • Untidy appearance or unclean attire.
  • Denying patients access to medical care.
  • Allowing the person to dwell in unsafe, unclean, or unhealthy surroundings.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

The following are indications of this type of abuse:

  • Social exclusion or emotional cutoff from others.
  • Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder or panic attacks
  • Worn with bleeding or torn underwear.
  • Having trouble sitting or standing.
  • Bruising on the genitalia, inner thighs, or breasts.
  • STDs or genital diseases that go undiagnosed.

Psychological/Emotional Abuse Signs and symptoms

Signs of psychological distress/disturbance include the following examples:

  • Removing or concealing personal items.
  • Limiting access to facilities where people can get food, water, or relieve themselves.
  • Elderly people receive silent treatment.
  • Making the individual feel bad or angry.
  • Embarrassing the individual in public.
  • Calling names, screaming, and making fun of people.

Signs and Symptoms of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse symptoms could include:

  • A senior’s demeanor or behavior has changed.
  • Proof of over- or under-medicating
  • Marks left behind by restraints or transfer injuries.
  • Sprains and dislocations
  • Untreated pressure wounds or open wounds.
  • Unknown wounds like cuts, bruises, welts, or fractured bones

How to Report Abuse

If you are aware of a nursing home or assisted living facility that has neglected an elder, consider reporting them to their licensing authority.

Virginia Reporting: (

Maryland Reporting: (

Washington DC Reporting: (

An experienced attorney is sometimes the safest person to speak to when you see signs of abuse of your elderly parent or loved one. Also, ensure the victims receive medical attention promptly, from an independent healthcare provider.

The author, Jeffrey Downey, is an elder law advocate and experienced trial lawyer handling elder abuse cases in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Call our office today for a free consultation.  If you cannot come to us, we can come to you.

Contact Information:

Jeff Downey
McLean, Virginia Office Location
8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810
McLean, VA 22102
Phone: 703-564-7357
Fax: 703-883-0108