Signs Your Aging Parent Is A Victim of Elder Abuse
Whether you are a long-distance or local caregiver, it can sometimes be difficult to spot the signs of elder abuse. Sometimes elder abuse is more subtle, emotional or financial. Since you’re not looking for bruises, the signs of elder abuse are harder to detect.
Elder abuse can happen to anyone. It isn’t something that only happens to the frail elderly woman with dementia. Men and women are susceptible to elder abuse. The higher their cognitive function and physical ability, the more likely they are to hide it from family. They may be embarrassed that someone took advantage of them. They may not want family to know that they were susceptible to elder abuse so they can go to great lengths to hide it.
Subtle Signs of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse isn’t just committed by paid caregivers. It can be committed by anyone who has a relationship with your aging parents – neighbors, new friends, family members, etc. You don’t need to go into hyper vigilant mode, suspecting anyone that befriends your aging parent is trying to take advantage of them, but be aware of some telltale signs.
- Your Parent Is Distant Or Secretive: If your normally chatty parent suddenly cuts phone calls short or has been avoiding you, he or she could be hiding the fact that someone took advantage of them. Perhaps they are embarrassed, or perhaps the person committing elder abuse is keeping them away from family. In either case, you should investigate.
- Money Is Missing OR Your Parent Is Spending More Than Normal: Has your aging parent’s spending habits changed? It can be hard to tell if you don’t live nearby and don’t manage their finances, but if you suspect that they are gifting large sums of money to someone or they are suddenly cutting back on normal expenses, it may be a sign that they have been taken advantage of financially.
- Unusual Financial Behavior: If your normally thrifty parent is suddenly gifting people large sums of money or jewelry, it could be a sign that someone is taking advantage of him/her. If you suspect funny business, you could ask them for permission to look at their check book register to see if they are writing large checks to someone without a valid reason.
- Sudden Desire to Change Will: If your parent suddenly wants to make changes to his/her will and part of the change is adding a new friend or caregiver, this might be a red flag. Of course, they are entitled to leave their assets to whomever they desire, but if someone is pressuring them to make changes, that is a sign of elder abuse.
- Your Aging Parent Is Showing Signs Of Depression: Emotional abuse is really difficult to detect from afar. You can’t hear the things the abuser is saying to your parent, or see the neglectful behavior. However, emotional abuse usually results in depression or embarrassment. If you notice your aging parent is expressing signs of depression, it’s time to have a heart to heart chat.
- Your Aging Parent is Withdrawing From Loved Ones: Many times, an abuser works to keep the abused person away from friends or family so that he or she can maintain control. Withdrawal is also a sign of depression so you should definitely keep watch for this behavior.
If you are able to check in on your aging parent when they are with the suspected abuser, there are signs of emotional elder abuse you can look for in their interactions.
- Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
- Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
- A caregiver or family member who keeps the caree away from other family or friends can also be a sign that there is abuse.
Physical Signs of Elder Abuse
The more recognized form of elder abuse is physical abuse. While emotional or financial elder abuse can be tougher to see, there are definite, physical signs of physical elder abuse.
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
- Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse
If your parent is in immediate physical danger, call 911 or the local police for help. If the danger is not immediate, you can contact the Adult Protective Services in your state.