Key Takeaways:

Education is critical to preventing elder abuse. Older adults, family, friends, professionals, caregivers, and the public need to know the signs and what to do if they suspect elder abuse. Learn 8 signs of elder abuse and ways older adults can stay healthy and safe as they age.

What Is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day?

The United Nations designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) according to WHO:

“Elder abuse can be defined as a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.’”

Elder abuse comes in a variety of both intentional and unintentional forms related to neglect and systematic abuse or abuse around financial, physical, psychological, and sexual care.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) estimates that 1 in 10 older people suffer from some type of abuse every year. Yet the signs of elder abuse often go unreported and abusers go unpunished.

Abuse is not limited to those living in elder care homes or communities, but rather many times abuse is propagated by relatives or friends of the older person.

How Do You Recognize Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse may become apparent in multiple different ways and the most common difference is a change in the behavior of a loved one including their mental, physical, or financial attitudes.

There is no one specific way to recognize this but some signs may include:

  • Weight loss or malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Poor hygiene
  • Hesitating to talk freely or making up irrational stories
  • Anxiety, depression, fear, or confusion
  • Injuries such as bruises, cuts, burns, or broken bones
  • Unexplained loss of money, excessive gift-giving, or inability to access finances
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Bedsores or ulcers
  • Missing medical aids such as walkers, dentures, glasses, medications, or hearing aids
  • Unclean or unsafe living conditions

While elder abuse can happen to any older adult, certain factors put some older adults at higher risk than others. Usually, those most at risk are over the age of 80 and female according to research by Northwestern University and WHO. Those who are isolated, in poor health, or cared for by a live-in caregiver who depends on them financially may also have a greater risk for abuse.

May 19, 2022
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Liz Miller

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