You’ve put your trust in others to care for your loved one, but the last time you visited something didn’t seem right. Your loved one may have seemed withdrawn, depressed, shaken up, and/or have shown other signs of physical abuse. 

Unfortunately, elder abuse does happen. It can take place in a long-term care facility or at home in the care of a caregiver, neighbor, or relative (almost 60% of incidents involve a relative according to the National Council on Aging, or NCOA).  The NCOA states that one in ten Americans age 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Knowing the signs of abuse and what to do about it can help protect your loved one from a dangerous and distressing situation.  

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse comes in many forms:

Physical. Any type of force that results in an injury or bodily harm.This includes hitting, shoving, keeping a person restrained, as well as giving unprescribed drugs.  

Emotional/Psychological. An action that causes mental pain and distress. This includes threats, yelling, calling names, being talked down to, being ignored, or being controlled. 

Neglect. Not taking care of the elder’s basic needs and safety. 

Financial. Taking advantage of the elder’s money or property without permission. This can range from forging signatures on legal documents to the use of credit cards and bank accounts.   

Sexual. Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind. 

Here are typical signs to look from the National Institute on Aging

Physical Signs: 

  • Bruises, cuts, abrasions, burns, scars and/or broken bones that can’t be explained 
  • Bed sores
  • Looks unclean (clothes are dirty, hair looks unwashed, has developed rashes) 
  • Unexplained weight loss or malnutrition 

Behavioral Signs

  • Acting agitated or violent
  • Seems frightened 
  • Displaying signs of trauma like rocking back and forth or mumbling to oneself 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression

Other signs: 

  • Missing valuables
  • Large withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Increased number of banking transactions

The NCOA estimates that elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death compared to those who have not been mistreated. 

How to help a person who may be abused? 

If you notice an elder is in life-threatening danger, call 911 immediately.   

If you suspect abuse, but he/she is not in immediate danger, you should contact someone in local adult protective services, long-term care ombudsman or the police.  

Click here to see a  list of helplines, hotlines and referral sources in Tennessee.