Are Your Parents at Risk?

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As elderly people age, they become more susceptible to many hazards, such as falling and getting lost or disoriented. One of the most common hazards facing seniors today is elder abuse. Whether they live at home or in assisted living facilities, many seniors are at risk of being abused by their caretakers. While the abuser will probably not abuse the elder in front of you, there are still some tell-tale signs to look out for.

Signs of physical abuse or neglect often manifest as repeated unexplained injuries, or bruises and welts on wrists and arms. The senior may be dismissive of the injuries, or unwilling to visit the same doctor for treatment of multiple injuries. Broken glasses or irregular medication (overdose or missing doses) may also indicate abuse. Weight loss, sunken eyes, and missing essentials such as glasses, cane, or dentures may indicate neglect.

Not all elder abuse is physical. Emotional abuse and financial exploitation are both common among eldercare providers. If a senior appears withdrawn, unresponsive, and isolated, he or she may be experiencing emotional abuse. Watch their interactions with the caregiver closely, and keep an eye out for evidence of belittling or controlling behavior on the part of the caregiver. Financial exploitation can be a little harder to recognize. Watch for unpaid medical bills if the senior is not lacking in the money to pay them, or unnecessary goods and services. Sudden changes to legal documents or valuable items suddenly going missing can also be indicators of financial exploitation.

Because the elderly are often incapable of advocating for themselves, it is important to keep a watchful eye out for signs of elderly abuse. If you see anything suspicious, report it to Adult Protective Services. Don’t worry about finding “proof,” your suspicions are enough for them to investigate. Screen all assisted living homes and adult day care providers. If the caretaker is a family member who lives with the senior, offer to give them frequent breaks. Visiting frequently will enable you to notice any changes, as well as encourage the senior to view you as a confidant and friend. These small steps can go a long way toward preventing elder abuse.