If you suspect that an elderly family member or acquaintance is experiencing abuse, you have a responsibility to speak up and report it. Many elderly people who experience abuse are either unable to report it themselves due to mental incapacity or unwilling to do so because of intimidation by the abuser.
Abuse can take many forms, and some signs are easier to spot than others. Here are some different types of abuse that can occur and indications that you should pay attention to.
According to the Administration for Community Living, physical abuse involves using forceful restraint, slapping or other types of violent actions to inflict pain or injury on someone else. Signs of physical abuse include abrasions, broken bones, bruises, burns or pressure marks, especially if there is not a plausible explanation for them. Because physical abuse leaves visible marks on the body, it may be the easiest type for you to recognize.
Emotional abuse involves using hurtful words, threats or nonverbal acts to inflict anguish, distress or mental pain. It can be just as damaging as physical abuse but more difficult for you to recognize because it leaves no marks or scars on the body. Signs of emotional abuse include relationships that become tense or strained, unusual changes in mood or unexplained withdrawal from normal activities.
Neglect occurs when a caretaker fails to meet the basic needs of an elderly adult who depends on him or her for care. Signs of neglect include unusual weight loss and poor hygiene. You may notice bedsores or other signs that no one is attending to the individual’s medical needs.
It is not your job to determine whether abuse is taking place. Your responsibility is to report your concerns to the appropriate authorities for further investigation.