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Signs of Elder Abuse: Identifying Physical and Psychological Abuse

signs of elder abuse

Did you know that one in six seniors over the age of 60 will experience some form of elder abuse? With the global elderly population expected to double, that number could get a lot worse.

Every person with a loved one benefiting from caregivers should care about this.

It’s crucial to notice the signs of physical and psychological abuse when you see them. Then, you must know what to do with that knowledge.

Once you learn the signs of elder abuse, it becomes easier to spot. Keep reading to learn the signs of abuse and what to do when you see it.

What Are Physical and Psychological Abuse?

Seniors who have help from caregivers in any living situation are vulnerable to abuse. The power dynamic places the elder at the mercy of the person controlling their health. If an abuser infiltrates the system and becomes a caregiver, your loved one is at risk.

Physical abuse applies to acts of violence or aggression towards the senior. It can include pushing, hitting, burning, neglect, etc.

Psychological abuse includes mental manipulation and coercion. Often, the abuser uses threats and blackmail to control the senior.

1. Physical Signs

Physical abuse isn’t always as clear as a black eye. The signs can be much more subtle.

Look for bruises, burns, and redness. They might be around the elder’s wrists or neck. Or, they could be around the elder’s private parts.

One clear sign is when the injuries are on symmetrical sides of the body. This is common when the senior was restrained or held down.

They might also have unexplained fractures and sprains. Notice if the senior’s glasses or personal belongings have broken. Look further into the reasons for missed medication notes from the caregiver.

It’s imperative that you talk to your elderly loved one alone. Don’t allow any caregivers in the room; consider taking the senior out of the facility for this if possible.

2. Reluctance to See a Doctor

When you point out the injuries to your loved one, they may be in denial. They might give you a range of excuses that place the blame on themselves.

If it’s clear they need to see a doctor, they might be extremely reluctant.

Often, the person getting abused feels terrified the abuse will get worse. They’re scared that a doctor will notice the abuse and the perpetrator will get mad.

This is a devastating situation for the senior. With age, they’ve lost much of their physical strength and therefore can’t defend themselves.

3. Shame and Psychological Signs

Elder abuse victims often feel shame around the abuse. They blame themselves for the situation. And, they often don’t want to bother their family with their problems.

Fear also forces the victim into denial and silence. If they report the abuse, they could face retaliation from the perpetrator.

They could also fear retaliation with psychological abuse. This includes the perpetrator insulting them, degrading them, and threatening them.

Some signs of psychological abuse are changes in your loved one’s personality. Their self-esteem and self-worth could decline. They may even develop a physical response to the abuse like rocking and sucking their thumb.

4. Change in Behavior Around Perpetrator

You need to observe your loved one in the assisted care facility. Notice how they act when different caregivers are in the room. Notice caregivers that pay particular attention to them.

Abusers are often afraid to leave their victim alone in case they divulge the abuse. Pay attention to caregivers that don’t give you and your loved one any time alone. They may insist your loved one needs alone time or treatment in a separate room to isolate them from you.

When the abuser’s around, the senior may withdraw and avoid eye contact. Their behavior is strange and unlike how you know them to be.

5. Caregiver’s Behavior

Caregivers are responsible for your loved one’s well-being. That power is attractive to an abuser. They gain a sense of arrogance and superiority from their position.

The caregiver might also be suffering from trauma from their own experiences. Many abusers have suffered abuse in their life.

Look for signs of depression, anxiety, and mood disorders in the caregiver. Notice signs of substance abuse or paraphernalia. How do they handle stress?

6. Signs of Neglect

Neglect is a form of physical and psychological abuse. Denying the senior of their basic needs affects their body and mind.

Make a surprise visit to your elderly loved one. Notice if they’ve had a bath or gone to the bathroom recently. Do they have bed sores from not getting turned?

If your loved one relies on caregivers for mobility, pay attention to their location. Abusers will sometimes leave the senior in an isolated location knowing they can’t move.

Another sign of neglect is malnutrition and weight loss. They may not be receiving enough meals or water.

How to Stop Elder Abuse

So, you’ve noticed one or more of these signs in your elderly loved one. What now?

Be with the senior as much as you can. Offer to spend time with them so the caregiver can leave or go home. Go for surprise visits and call often.

Have a conversation with your loved one about what you’ve noticed. Make sure it’s away from any caregivers. Tell them you aren’t comfortable with their treatment.

If possible, find a new facility for them to live. You need to remove them from the abusive situation. End their contact with the abuser.

Report the abuse to the police. Notify all the senior’s friends and family, as well as their doctor. Call the Elder Abuse Hotline for more help; the US number is 1-800-677-1116.

Want to Learn More About the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a complex and complicated situation. The signs and symptoms aren’t always obvious or clear. The most important things you can do are be present, support them, and advocate for them.

If your loved one is showing signs of elder abuse, find a support system. Gather your family together and target this problem together. Lean on emergency services and the police when you need to.

For more information on elder care and assisted living, check out the resources blog.