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Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse

infections and bed sores in the elderlySigns and symptoms of Elder Abuse

At first, you might not recognize or take seriously signs of elder abuse.  They may appear to be symptoms of dementia or signs of the elderly person’s frailty — or caregivers may explain them to you that way. In fact, many of the signs and symptoms of elder abuse do overlap with symptoms of mental deterioration, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them on the caregiver’s say-so.

General signs of abuse

The following are warning signs of some kind of elder abuse:

  • Frequent arguments or tension between the caregiver and the elderly person
  • Changes in personality or behavior in the elder

If you suspect elderly abuse, but aren’t sure, look for clusters of the following physical and behavioral signs.

Physical abuse

  • Unexplained signs of injury such as bruises, welts,  or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two side of the body
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  • Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should)
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

Emotional abuse

In addition to the general signs above, indications of emotional elder abuse include:

  • Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness
  • Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself

Sexual abuse

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

Neglect by caregivers or self-neglect

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water;  faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards)
  • Desertion of the elder at a public place

Financial exploitation

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition
  • Items or cash missing from the senior’s household
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
  • Addition of names to the senior’s signature  card
  • Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although the elder has enough money to pay for them
  • Financial activity the senior couldn’t have  done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder  is bedridden
  • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions

Healthcare fraud and abuse

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
  • Evidence of over medication or under medication
  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full
  • Problems with the care facility: poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff; crowding; inadequate responses to questions about care

– from Steven Peck, Senior Attorney at Peck Law Group
 

About the Author

Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.


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