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Signs of elder abuse and neglect to watch for

As loved ones age and need advanced care, it's important to stay mindful of the potential dangers of elder abuse and mistreatment. No person at any age should experience mistreatment from those who should be caring for them.

Seniors may be particularly vulnerable to potential abuse, so it's important their loved ones know what to watch for in case of mistreatment. Not all signs of abuse present in obvious ways. Mental and psychological mistreatment can greatly impact the lives and wellbeing of elder victims.

Prevalence of elder mistreatment

The rates of elder abuse in the United States vary, with many governmental and research agencies believing the reported cases are far below the actual rate. Approximately one in 10 people over age 60 experience some form of mistreatment in their lifetime.

Every instance of mistreatment may differ from others, but most experts categorize forms of abuse into a handful of categories:

  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse or exploitation
  • Neglect or abandonment
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Deprivation

Each form of elder abuse manifests in a variety of symptoms. Physical abuse can range from bruising and cuts to broken bones and scars. This may seem like the most obvious form of abuse to notice, but each type is noticeable if you know what to look for.

Symptoms to watch for

For victims of emotional and psychological abuse, behavioral changes and increased anxieties tend to manifest. Changed sleep patterns, low energy, unexplained weight loss, increased agitation, signs of trauma; all these symptoms may indicate a form of elder abuse.

To watch for neglect and deprivation, notice the person's living environment and hygiene levels. Unwashed and unkempt clothing, body odor, poor dental hygiene and physical cleanliness may indicate neglect and deprivation of care. It's also important to listen to what an elderly person says and pay attention to exasperation and complaints. Victims may struggle to explicitly say what they're experiencing, but warning signs may come out in seemingly innocuous conversation.

Elders who experience abuse may fear for their safety and resist talking about the abuse. Their vulnerability and lack of autonomy makes it that much more essential that loved ones watch for even subtle changes to indicate potential neglect and abuse.

Some potential signs of abuse may also be symptoms of existing health issues and illnesses related to older age. It's important to recognize that not every person will experience neglect and mistreatment, but those who do need their loved ones to watch for their safety. Consult with medical, legal and psychological professionals in California if you suspect elder abuse or mistreatment.

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