Know The Signs Of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which harms an older person. Many people do not discuss their concerns with others because of feelings of shame, fear of retaliation, the involvement of family members or fear they will be institutionalised. Some people may not realise they are being abused, or they may feel that somehow they deserve it or that it is their fault.

Table of contents:-

Behavioural signs
Emotional abuse
Financial abuse
Physical abuse

Behavioural signs

A person showing the following behavioural signs may indicate they are experiencing abuse:-

  • afraid of someone close to them
  • irritable, shaking, trembling or crying
  • depressed or withdrawn, talk of suicide
  • lack of interest in getting involved in their usual interests
  • changes to sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • rigid posture
  • presenting as helpless, hopeless or sad
  • contradictory statements not associated with mental confusion
  • reluctance to talk openly
  • waiting for another person to answer
  • worried or anxious for no obvious reason
  • any radical change in behaviour.

Emotional abuse

Signs of emotional abuse include:-

  • resignation
  • fear
  • shame
  • depression
  • passivity
  • anger
  • insomnia.

Financial abuse

Signs of financial abuse include:-

  • sudden inability to pay bills or rent
  • sale of property by an older person who seems confused about the reasons for the sale
  • lack of money for necessities
  • lack of money for social activities
  • depletion of savings
  • disappearance of possessions
  • loss of financial material e.g.. bank books, credit cards, cheque books
  • management of a seemingly competent older person's finances by another person
  • signs of misuse of an Enduring Power of Attorney, with control over an older person's property/financial affairs to the detriment of the older person's welfare
  • signatures on documents/cheques not resembling the older person's signature
  • reluctance to make a will or have budget advice.

Physical abuse

Signs of physical abuse include:-

  • unexplained accidents or injuries
  • bruising and abrasions
  • facial swelling or missing teeth
  • burns
  • older person seen by different doctors or hospitals
  • conflicting stories between the older person and carers or family members.


Signs of neglect include:-

  • malnourishment or dehydration
  • hypothermia
  • weight loss with no apparent medical cause
  • pallor, sunken eyes, cheeks
  • injuries that have not been properly cared for
  • poor personal hygiene
  • clothing in poor repair; inappropriate for season
  • lack of safety precautions, supervision
  • absence of appropriate dentures, glasses or hearing aids when these are needed
  • older person abandoned or left unattended for long periods
  • medicines not purchased or administered
  • no social, cultural, intellectual or physical stimulation.

Text © The State of Queensland (Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services) 2010-2012, About Know The Signs, Last updated: 13 August, 2012; Viewed 27 October, 2012.

© S. D. Goeldner, 2012. Last updated August, 2019.

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