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Physical Abuse

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Katherine, 82, raised two grandsons, Joel and Kent. They had physically abused her since they were teenagers. After 12 years in prison, Joel returned to his grandmother's home because he had nowhere to go. One night Joel came home and was drunk. He banged on the door but Katherine told Joel to go away. After he entered the house through a back window, Joel beat his grandmother. Katherine went to a neighbor’s house and called 911. Joel was arrested and Katherine was taken to the hospital. The police contacted Adult Protective Services (APS).

When George, 79, lost his wife of 50 years to cancer, his son, Lawrence, came to live with him. Lawrence was on disability due to a traumatic brain injury. The brain injury caused behavior changes, including difficulty with self-control and verbal and physical outbursts. The injury also caused violent mood swings. Occasionally, Lawrence went to a neighbor's apartment and got drunk. One night when Lawrence returned home, George asked him if he was drunk. Lawrence yelled "NO" and punched his father in the face. Because George was afraid of further violence, he called 911 to get help from the police.   

After 58 years of marriage, Virgil and Ella, both 83, knew each other's habits well. Sometimes, when they argued they became physically violent. Nevertheless, they said they loved each other and had never considered divorce. Violence was unfortunately a part of their relationship. As Ella aged, she developed osteoporosis. She began to worry that if she fell down when they were fighting each other she might end up with a broken bone. She confided this to a friend, and her friend suggested calling the local domestic violence hotline to speak with a counselor.

Blair, 65, had no close relatives. Because of early-onset dementia, he was placed in a nursing home and required guardianship. Chris, Blair’s guardian, came to Blair’s nursing home every few months to see how Blair was doing. During the last visit, Chris began slapping Blair to wake him up. Joan, a care attendant rushed to the room when Blair began crying out for Chris to stop. Joan noticed marks on Blair’s face and asked what had happened. Blair was unable to tell Joan what had happened but Chris quickly left the room. Joan reported the incident to her supervisors who helped her make a report to Adult Protective Services (APS). The report triggered involvement by the state ombudsman and local law enforcement.

Monica, 79, was placed in a long-term care facility when her ALS became severe and her family could no longer care for her. Her family became concerned when they saw bruising on her arms and back. Monica was not able to speak and could not tell her family how she got the bruises. Monica’s family asked the staff about the bruising but was not satisfied with the explanation. The family also noticed that when a certain aide helped bathe her, Monica became upset and agitated. They suspected that the aide was hitting Monica and called local law enforcement.


Did This Happen to You or Someone You Know?

  1. Has anyone hit, kicked, bit, slapped, or thrown things at you?
  2. Has anyone held or tied you down, or locked you in a room or building?
  3. Has anyone shaken, pinched, or burned you?
  4. Has anyone physically hurt you so that you suffered some injury, such as cuts, bruises, or other marks? 
  5. Has anyone pushed, shoved, or grabbed you?
  6. Has anyone used a knife or gun on you?
  7. Has anyone not allowed you to go the bathroom?      
  8. Has anyone given you too much or too little medication?  

Warning Signs of Physical Abuse Include:

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, or rope marks
  • Bone fractures, broken bones, or skull fractures
  • Open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries in various stages of healing
  • Sprains, dislocations, or internal injuries/bleeding
  • Broken eyeglasses/frames, physical signs of being subjected to punishment, or signs of being restrained
  • Laboratory findings of medication overdose or under-utilization of prescribed drugs
  • An elder's report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated
  • An elder's sudden change in behavior
  • The caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone