Protecting Our Seniors: How Loved Ones Can Prevent Elder Abuse

Updated on June 11, 2024

As our loved ones age, their vulnerabilities can sometimes make them targets for various forms of abuse. From financial manipulation to physical neglect, elderly individuals can find themselves in harmful situations without even realizing it. It’s important for the family and friends of these individuals to remain aware and take steps to prevent these abuses from occurring. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of elder abuse, signs to watch for and how to empower our seniors to protect themselves.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can manifest in several forms, each with its own devastating impact on the victim’s physical, emotional and financial well-being:

  • Physical Abuse: This includes any form of physical harm or force inflicted on an elderly person, such as hitting, pushing or inappropriate use of restraints.
  • Financial Exploitation: Elderly individuals may fall victim to scams, theft or manipulation of their finances. This can include unauthorized use of credit cards, forging signatures or coercing the victim into signing over property/assets or updating their wills.
  • Emotional Abuse: Verbal abuse, threats, intimidation and isolation are all forms of emotional abuse. It can cause long-term effects on an individual’s mental health. This is one of the more common forms of elder abuse and often the hardest to prove.
  • Sexual Abuse: Sadly, sexual abuse of the elderly is also a reality in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This can include a caregiver touching their patient inappropriately or forcing them to engage in non-consensual sexual conduct.
  • Neglect: Negligence occurs when a resident experiences isolation or abandonment, lacks the appropriate diet or medication, or suffers from neglect of physical needs, like failing to properly reposition a disabled patient or adhering to fall prevention protocols.

Signs of Elder Abuse

Recognizing the signs of abuse is crucial for early intervention. Here are some commonalities to watch for:

  • Unexplained injuries: Bruises, fractures or other injuries without a reasonable explanation.
  • Sudden financial changes: Large withdrawals, missing valuable items or sudden changes in financial documents.
  • Withdrawal or changes in behavior: If an outgoing loved one suddenly becomes withdrawn, anxious or seems scared, it could indicate emotional abuse.
  • Unsanitary living conditions: Neglected hygiene, lack of food or unsafe living conditions.

How to Help Protect Our Loved Ones

While we can hope our elderly loved ones will not experience any forms of abuse, it’s important to be prepared for these possibilities. There are a few ways you can remain proactive in your loved one’s care:

  • Educate: Talk openly with your elderly loved ones about the different forms of abuse. Encourage them to ask questions and share any concerns they may have.
  • Stay Connected: Remain in close contact with your loved ones. Check in frequently, whether in person or through phone calls or video chats. Isolation can make individuals more vulnerable to abuse.
  • Monitor Financial Activity: Help your loved ones keep track of their finances. Set up alerts for suspicious activity and discuss the importance of never sharing personal or financial information with strangers.
  • Know Their Caregivers: Whether they’re in a nursing home or receiving in-home care, get to know the caregivers. Trust your instincts—if something feels off, investigate further. You know them best.
  • Encourage Self-Advocacy: Remind your loved ones that they have the right to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable. Encourage them to speak up if they feel they are being mistreated.
  • Report Suspected Abuse: If you suspect abuse, don’t hesitate to report it. Contact adult protective services or the police for immediate assistance. Also, research and be aware of your state’s resources for crime victims.

Protecting our elderly loved ones from abuse requires us to be alert, communicate and advocate for their health. By understanding the different forms of abuse, recognizing the signs and empowering our elders to protect themselves, we can create safer environments for them to thrive in their golden years. Commit yourself to being their advocates and ensuring they live with dignity and respect.

Melvin Hewitt headshot copy
Melvin Hewitt

Melvin Hewitt, AV preeminent-rated lawyer, founded Isenberg & Hewitt in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1989. Specializing in representing crime victims, he handles cases from physical assaults to human trafficking. He’s engaged in numerous victim support organizations, including The National Center for Victims of Crime, Atlanta Victim Assistance and Marsy’s Law for Georgia.