Elder Abuse- Signs and What You Can Do About It

       Unfortunately, elder abuse is becoming more common.  Elder abuse most often occurs where the older person lives, whether that’s at home by themselves, in another’s home, or in a retirement community.  The abuser could be a healthcare worker, a friend or relative, or, in the case of financial abuse, am outside scammer.  Elder abuse can take many forms including physical, sexual, financial, and material.  Elder abuse can also include neglect.  There are many warning signs to look out for, including the following:

Physical Abuse

  • Bruises, scars, welts, sores, burns, or other marks.  These are more significant if they appear on both sides of the victim’s body
  • Broken bones or sprains
  • Drug overdose or failure to take medication regularly (as evidenced by reappearance of symptoms that were formerly under control, medication has more remaining than it should
  • Signs of restraint including rope marks or burns on ankles or wrists

Sexual Abuse

  • Torn or bloody clothing
  • Venereal disease or sexually transmitted infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Bruises around genitals

Financial Abuse

  • Withdrawals of large sums of money from an account without an apparent reason
  • Signing over his or her home
  • Gifts or money or personal items
  • Poorly performed home repairs
  • Sudden changes in older person’s financial situation
  • Items or cash missing from older person’s living space
  • Suspicious or sudden changes  to will, powers of attorney, or insurance beneficiaries
  • Unpaid bills
  • Unnecessary goods, services, or subscriptions
  • Financial activity that older person could not have done, such as ATM activity when older person is bedridden


  • Weight loss
  • Dementia is often blamed on old age, when it is really malnutrition or withdrawal from medicine
  • Dehydration
  • Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions
  • Older person is dirty or does not appear to have bathed recently
  • Older person is wearing unsuitable clothing for the weather, such as going outside in low temperatures without a winter coat

General Signs

  • Belittling or controlling behavior by caregiver
  • Threats by caregiver
  • Low self esteem
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Older person never goes outside or sees visitors (isolation by caretaker)
  • Argument and tension between caregiver and elderly person

       If you suspect elder abuse, there are some steps you can take to protect the older person.  In Pennsylvania, there is a statewide elder abuse hotline 1 (800) 490-8505 which will direct you to your local Area Agency on Aging.  If you call the hotline, you can report anonymously.  You can also contact the Attorney General to file a complaint.