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Signs of Elder Abuse – Keep An Eye Out This Weekend

by John Gomez | Last Updated: November 25, 2016
Signs of Elder Abuse

Millions of people will be visiting with older relatives this holiday weekend.  Thanksgiving is an opportunity for family members who may not see all that much of each other to get together and enjoy each other’s company.  People who live in nursing homes or who require in-home care often times do not have busy social calendars. This is simply an unavoidable reality for many people, as friends and family members have already passed on and surviving family members do not live nearby.

Sadly, too many people living in these situations are abused by caregivers, other residents or even relatives.  There are several different common signs of elder abuse.  The nursing home abuse lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys would like to share some of them with you now so that you can recognize them as you spend time with that loved one this weekend.

Types of Elder Abuse

Before delving into the common signs of elder abuse, it may be helpful to lay out the different categories of abuse that can occur.  According to the American Psychological Association, the different categories of elder abuse include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment

While some of these types of elder abuse are more statistically prevalent than others, each of them can occur to almost anyone.

Common Signs of Elder Abuse

There are different signs of elder abuse that tend to present themselves for each type of abuse that occurs.  Below you’ll find a breakdown of each of these common warning signs:

Physical Abuse:

  • Bruises
  • Cuts
  • Broken bones
  • Extremely sore areas on the body
  • Pressure marks
  • Poor explanations for any of these injuries

Sexual Abuse:

  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Depressed or withdrawn behavior
  • Symptoms of venereal disease
  • Vaginal or rectal bleeding that may show up as blood on the pants

Emotional Abuse:

  • Sudden and radical changes in personality
  • Nervous behavior
  • Seemingly irrational fears
  • A reluctance to carry on otherwise basic conversations

Financial Abuse:

  • Suddenly disappearing items
  • Strange purchases
  • An expression of stress in a financial sense
  • Unpaid bills


  • General lack of hygiene
  • Dirty clothes
  • Foul odor
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Bedsores


  • Piles of dirty laundry
  • Empty medication vials
  • Lack of food in the home or room

Elder Abuse Statistics

If you happen to spot signs of elder abuse with your loved one, you should not feel at all alone or as if it’s an isolated situation.  Unfortunately, elder abuse is stunningly common in the United States.  It’s also a problem that’s getting worse as the population of the country ages collectively.  Even worse, the statistics on elder abuse vary widely because it’s vastly underreported.  Some estimates indicate that only between 5 and 10 percent of elder abuse cases are ever reported to authorities.  Of course, that percentage could be even lower.

Based on the statistics that are available, the National Center on Elder Abuse, or NCEA, estimates that 1 out of every 10 people who are 60 years old or older in the United States has experienced some form of elder abuse.  At this point, there are more than 40 million people who are at least 65 years old living in the United States.  That means that at least 4 million of them have likely suffered through some form of elder abuse.  To make matters worse, the age group is expected to double in number by the year 2050.  As such, awareness of the problem and vigilance are both critically important with every older person and their families.

Who Commits Elder Abuse?

According to a consensus of experts in the field, the vast majority of those who commit elder abuse are people who are close to the victim.  As such, studies have suggested that approximately 90 percent of elder abuse cases involve an adult relative of the victim as the alleged abuser.  The remaining cases generally involve in-home caregivers, staff members at the nursing home or even other residents of an assisted living facility.  The common threads among those who abuse elders includes:

  1. Access to the victim
  2. Some sort of control over the victim
  3. A degree of isolation
  4. Recognition of the vulnerability of the victim
  5. A degree of trust that’s earned from the victim’s family

Overall, much like anyone can be the target of elder abuse, anyone can also be an abuser of older people.  It is not limited to a certain group, gender, profession or demographic.

Where To Report Signs of Elder Abuse

If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected during your visit this weekend, you need to act immediately.  Studies have shown that older people who are abused are 300 percent more likely to die than those who are not mistreated.  You can find the text of one such study here.  This is not a situation that will resolve itself or simply go away.  You should understand that in almost all cases, the person being abused is not going to tell you about it.

Therefore, if you see signs of elder abuse and you need to report it, you have options available to you.  You can:

  • File a complaint with the assisted living center
  • Report the situation to your state’s Department of Public Health
  • File a claim with your state’s Adult Protective Services Department
  • Contact an elder abuse attorney

California residents can find a link to the Department of Public Health’s complaint form here.  Those looking for a link to the Adult Protective Services department form can find it here.

Above all else, if you suspect that your loved one is in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement agency for help and guidance.

How San Diego Elder Abuse Lawyers Can Help

Everyone at our law firm sincerely hopes that if you are visiting with an older relative during Thanksgiving weekend that you come away from that experience feeling good about how he or she is doing and the care that he or she is receiving.  If you do see signs of elder abuse, however, you need to do what’s necessary to restore that person’s health, safety and dignity.

If you are unsure of where to turn, contact the San Diego nursing home lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys for a free case evaluation.

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