An elderly woman looking out of a window Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

You commit to spending more time with your favorite elder when you notice they're withdrawn. They aren't dressed as neatly as they have in the past, and they're thinner than the last time you visited. Is this the result of aging, or is more going on?

You wonder if perhaps your favorite elder is properly cared for. How do you know for sure?

Types Of Abuse

A book titled Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse on a table with a gavel, pen, additional books, and eyeglases.

Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an elder.

There are different types of abuse:

  • Physical abuse — when an elder is hit, pushed, or slapped. This includes an elder being restrained against their will or locked in a room.

  • Emotional abuse — when an elder is isolated from friends and family and/or is yelled at, called names, or repeatedly ignored.

  • Neglect when an elder's physical, emotional, or social needs are ignored. Medication, food, or healthcare are withheld.

  • Abandonment — leaving an elder alone without planning for their welfare.

  • Sexual abuse — forcing an elder to watch or engage in sexual acts.

  • Financial abuse using an elder's funds without their approval. This can include gaining access to an elder's bank account and spending funds without the elder's notice, selling property or goods without permission, or using an elder's social security without the elder's knowledge.

Signs Of Abuse

Emotional and Behavioral Signs

There can be a change in mood and behavior that makes your favorite elderly relative seem like a different person.


  • Becomes withdrawn or acts agitated or violent

  • Displays signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth

  • Stops taking part in activities they enjoy

Physical Signs

Physical abuse can be difficult to recognize. Keep your eyes open for unexplained injuries or physical changes.


  • Loses weight for no reason

  • Has unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, or scars

Financial Signs

The elderly can be taken advantage of by their caretakers or predatory business practices, so you'll need to watch out for red flags.


  • Insufficient care or unpaid bills despite adequate financial resources

  • Unusual changes in their bank account or money management

  • Legal documents that have changed or disappeared

Nelson's Story

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Nelson's oldest grandchild, Micah, visits from college during Christmas break. Nelson tells Micah he doesn't feel well and wants to go to the doctor, but his daughter won't take him.

When Micah confronts his mother, she responds, "It's all in his head! He doesn't need to go to the doctor. His memory is failing. We went to the doctor just last month!"

Should Micah be concerned?

A — No. Micah's mother knows what's best. If it was really important, she'd take his grandfather to the doctor, right?

B — Yes. Nelson may be suffering from neglect.


Which is the best answer?

Grace's Story

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Grace receives a check every month from her estate to cover living expenses. Usually, there's plenty left over for incidentals such as personal care items and the occasional Amazon purchase, but lately, her bank account has less money than it should.

When she asked her son, who helps her pay her expenses and has access to her account, if he knew why her account was so low, he said no.

Should Grace be concerned?

A — Yes. Grace should call her accountant and ask him to check her account. Missing funds can be a sign of financial abuse.

B — No. Grace trusts her son. She's never been great at math. Perhaps she made a mistake.


Which is the best answer?

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