Unfortunately, seniors are often vulnerable to various types of elder abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, financial abuse or exploitation, and neglect or self-neglect. In some cases, the only person in a position to help is the very one who is perpetrating the abuse, which can include professional caregivers, friends or even close family. Seniors, especially in those cases, often feel trapped and alone.
However, there are ways that you can help. One way is by reporting suspected cases of elder abuse to the authorities. In order to do so, you’ll have to know what to look for. There are common signs of elder abuse. If you can identify them, you might save someone’s life.
Physical abuse is the intentional use of force that results in pain, injury or impairment to an elderly victim. It can include striking (with or without an object), shaking or inappropriately restraining a victim, intentionally giving inappropriate medications to a victim, or force-feeding a victim, among other acts. Signs of physical abuse include:
Sexual abuse refers to sexual contact with an elderly person that is non-consensual. An elderly person who lacks the mental capacity cannot grant consent. Sexual abuse of elders includes forced nudity or taking sexually explicit photographs, unwanted touching, sexual battery, or rape. Signs of sexual abuse include:
Psychological or Emotional Abuse
Psychological or emotional abuse is the intentional infliction of anguish, pain or distress through either verbal or non-verbal conduct. Signs of psychological or emotional abuse include:
Financial Abuse or Exploitation
In general, elder financial abuse or exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an elderly person's assets. This can include manipulation of a senior's bank accounts, real property, or other financial interests; pressuring a senior to sign estate planning documents; identity theft; and phone or email scams. Signs of financial abuse or exploitation include:
Neglect and Self-Neglect
Neglect is a caregiver's refusal to provide for the necessary care of an elder. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional. On the other hand, elder self-neglect also involves the lack of necessary care for seniors, but without any third-party perpetrator as the neglect is a result of the elderly person's own action or inaction. Signs of neglect or self-neglect include:
Reporting Elder Abuse
If you suspect that an elderly person is being subjected to abuse, it’s important to immediately report the abuse to your local Adult Protective Services agency or your local law enforcement agency. For more information on reporting, see FindLaw's "Reporting Elder Abuse."
There may also be legal remedies available to victims of elder abuse. Because elder abuse laws vary by state, you should contact an attorney in your area that specializes in elder law to determine what legal remedies are available. To find an elder law attorney near you, use FindLaw’s attorney directory.