Spotting and Preventing Elder Abuse — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Raising awareness about the prevalence of elder abuse is important to help stop it in its tracks.

Every year in June, efforts to educate us all about this issue so we can spot it to stop it occur including educational campaigns in the media and events in your local community.

Family caregivers are often unaware of the extent of elder abuse and how it may impact their own senior loved one.

Who Is At Risk?

All seniors can at some point be victims of elder abuse. There are many types of abuse, including financial, emotional, neglect and self-neglect, abandonment, physical, and sexual.

Seniors can be victims of financial abuse if they get scammed over the phone or electronically via email. A criminal can steal their money, assets, or identity.

Trusting seniors could fall victim to someone who wants to do them harm if they answer the front door to someone they don’t know.

A senior’s mail could be stolen from their home mailbox. Many seniors continue to have paper copies of checks or account statements with personal identification information sent via the post office that can be vulnerable to theft, rather than switching to direct deposit or a secure online banking system. Criminals capitalize on this vulnerability by stealing their identity or their money — or both.

Seniors can be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by someone they know, such as a caregiver (paid or unpaid) or someone who enters their life only to take advantage of their situation.

Seniors can neglect themselves with poor food consumption, failure to do personal care, or by living in unsafe conditions.

Seniors who are most at risk include those who:

  • Have dementia
  • Are isolated
  • Have a mental health or substance abuse issue
  • Are in poor physical health
  • Are women
  • Are over 80 years

Tips to Spot Abuse and Help Prevent It

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) wants us all, especially family caregivers, to report abuse of elders to our local authorities, such as adult protective services or local law enforcement. Even if you merely suspect abuse, report it so it can be investigated and stopped.

If you think the abuse could be life threatening, dial 9-1-1.

Here are suggestions from NCEA:

  1. Keep in contact and talk with your older friends, neighbors, and relatives frequently.
  2. Be aware and alert for the possibility of abuse, such as bruising or injuries, changes in mood or new depression, isolation, sudden change in financial situation, poor hygiene, failure to eat or drink, unintentional weight loss, withdrawal, or acting out against others.
  3. Look around and take note of what may be happening with your older neighbors and acquaintances; be observant.
  4. Ask questions and listen to seniors.
  5. Talk with others about the problem of elder abuse to raise awareness.

Family caregivers need to be advocates against elder abuse.

Additional Resources

Elder abuse prevention is an important topic. Here are additional articles to help you learn more about it and how you can get involved.