#17 – What are the signs of elder abuse?

Click here to see the prior item in this series:  What are the signs of self-neglect?

What are the signs of elder abuse?

Elder abuse is causing physical, emotional, or financial harm to an older person, whether intentionally or unintentionally. There are many possible signs of abuse:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be signs of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may indicate emotional abuse.
  • Sudden financial losses may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual, unexplained weight loss might be signs of neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses or other adults may signify verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships and frequent arguments between the caregiver and older person can suggest mistreatment, either by the caregiver or the person receiving care.

Closeup of a happy old man on the wheel chair with a nurse

If your parent is in a long-term care facility, the facility must take steps to prevent (and report) abuse.  Nursing homes and hospitals are subject to strict state licensing requirements and federal regulations. Even so, neglect and abuse can occur.

Physical abuse by other residents is also possible. For more information, contact the National Center on Elder Abuse. You might also talk with your state or local long-term care ombudsman; contact your state government, your Area Agency on Aging, or the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.

Click here to see the next item in this series:  How can I lighten the load for my mother?

Acorn wishes to acknowledge the National Institute on Aging for this valuable content.


Within Acorn’s service area of Chapel Hill, Durham and surrounding areas in North Carolina (Hillsborough, Pittsboro, Morrisville, Cary, and Apex) the following resources may be especially helpful:

  • Orange County Department on Aging, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516, (919) 968-2070
  • Durham Center for Senior Life, 406 Rigsbee Avenue – Suite 202, Durham, North Carolina   27701, (919) 688-8247
  • Chatham County Council on Aging, 365 North Carolina 87, Pittsboro, North Carolina   27312, (919) 542-4512
  • Triangle J Area Agency on Aging, 4307 Emperor Boulevard
- Suite 110, Durham, NC 27703, 919-558-2711
  • Resources for Seniors (Wake County), 1110 Navaho Dr.  – Suite 400, Raleigh, NC 27609, 919-872-7933