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Red Flags of Elder Abuse

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Warning signs of physical abuse

  • 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 older adult’s sudden change in behavior
  • The caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see or speak to an older adult alone
  • An older adult’s report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated

Warning signs of emotional/psychological abuse

  • Being emotionally upset or agitated
  • Being extremely withdrawn, non-communicative, or non-responsive
  • Unusual behavior, such as sucking, biting, rocking
  • Witnessing a caregiver controlling or isolating an older adult
  • Exhibiting a change in sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • Personality changes, such as apologizing excessively
  • Depression or anxiety
  • An older adult’s report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated

Warning signs of financial exploitation

  • Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the older adult
  • The inclusion of additional names on an older adult’s bank signature card
  • Unauthorized withdrawal of the older adult’s funds using their ATM card
  • Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
  • Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
  • Provision of substandard care or bills left unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources
  • Discovery of a forged signature for financial transactions or for the titles of the older adult’s possessions
  • Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an older adult’s property or possessions
  • Unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
  • The provision of services that are not necessary
  • An older adult’s report of financial exploitation
  • Unexplained credit card charges

Warning signs of neglect and abandonment

  • Dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, and poor personal hygiene
  • Unattended or untreated health problems
  • Hazardous or unsafe living conditions/arrangements (e.g., improper wiring, no heat, or no running water)
  • Unsanitary and unclean living condition (e.g., dirt, fleas, lice on person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing)
  • The desertion of an older adult at a hospital, a nursing facility, or other similar institution, or a shopping center or other public location
  • An older adult’s report of being neglected or abandoned
  • Lack of food in the refrigerator or cupboards

Warning signs of sexual abuse

  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Changes in an older adult’s demeanor, such as showing fear or becoming withdrawn when a specific person is around
  • Evidence of pornographic material being shown to an older adult with diminished capacity
  • Blood found on sheets, linens or an older adult’s clothing
  • An older adult’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped
Updated November 7, 2023