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We often hear about elder abuse, but many of us would be unable to spot it if it were occurring. It can be difficult to recognize elder abuse because it comes in many varieties. Each year, hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected and exploited by family members, friends, caregivers or trusted others.

The types of abuse that can occur to an elder include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Financial exploitation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Self-neglect
  • Healthcare fraud

Below are the most common warning signs of elder abuse:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, abrasions, burns, broken bones
  • Strained or tense relationships
  • Changes in personality
  • Threats and belittling from a friend or family member
  • Sudden changes in financial circumstances
  • Bedsores, poor hygiene, rapid weight loss
  • Unattended medical needs
  • Inadequate dosing of medications
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Depression or anxiety

Elders are often targets for abuse because they may be living with physical or mental conditions that leave them vulnerable. The abuser is generally someone close to the person, such as a caregiver, child, spouse or grandchild. Even though many forms of abuse are intentional, most cases of elder abuse are unintentional.

A common obstacle is that caregivers are pushed beyond their limits and end up becoming frustrated or angry, ignoring the needs of the elder. This is why it’s so important that caregivers take time out for themselves and get the support they need. They say a happy mother makes a happy family – the same is true for caregivers. When caregivers are cared for, the quality of care they deliver is much higher, and they avoid feeling frustrated, angry and overburdened.

If you see that an elder is being neglected or abused, don’t hesitate to report the situation. Victims often suffer in silence, so speaking up can make the difference between a happy and fulfilling life or one filled with neglect and abuse. There are national and state hotlines that can help with these situations 24/7, and a number should be within reach at all times.