The elderly don’t have to be living in an assisted living facility in order to be susceptible to abuse or neglect. Many seniors are abused in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, or sometimes even by relatives themselves. There are many kinds of abuse and knowing what to watch for can help you prevent it.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse refers to non-accidental use of force resulting in pain, injury, or impairment. It does not have to be hitting or assaulting, the improper use of medication or the use of restraint is considered abuse as well. Keep an eye out for signs, including:

  • An unexplained bruise, cuts, marks, welts, scars, etc.
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Signs of restraint, such as marks on the wrists or ankles
  • Report of drug overdose or failure to take medication correctly (a bottle has more or less medicine than it should)
  • A caregiver who refuses to allow you see the senior alone
  • Broken eyeglasses

Emotional Abuse

This involves people speaking to, or treating, an elderly person in such a way that it causes emotional pain or psychological distress. This includes: yelling, threatening, humiliating, ridiculing, scapegoating, intimidating, isolating from activities, and ignoring the elderly person.

Sexual Abuse

This involves sexual contact without the elder’s consent, but may also include: forcing them to watch or conduct sexual acts, forcing them to view pornographic material, or forcing them to undress. Signs include: unexplained sexually transmitted diseases, bruising around the genitals, unexpected vaginal or anal bleeding, agitation during examination, and torn, bloody, or stained undergarments.

Economic/Financial Abuse

This involves the unauthorized use of an elder’s money or property, either by a caregiver or an outside scammer. Signs include: large withdrawals from the elder’s accounts, particularly high credit card balances, missing items or cash, and unpaid bills. Unnecessary services, items, or subscriptions and financial activity the senior could not have done, such as ATM withdrawals from a bedridden patient, are tell-tale signs.

Healthcare Abuse

This is most often carried out by unethical healthcare personnel and can include: charging for medical care that wasn’t provided, overbilling, double billing for care, receiving kickbacks for prescribing certain medications, over or under medicating, Medicaid fraud, or recommending fraudulent treatment for illness and injury. Signs include: multiple bills from the same provider for the same service, evidence of over or under medicating, evidence of inadequate care even when bills have been paid, and problems with the care facility in general.


This refers to a failure to provide adequate care for the senior, which can either be intentional or unintentional, based on how much care the senior thinks he or she needs. This accounts for up to half of cases of elder abuse. Signs include: unexplained weight loss, diaper rash, being left dirty, not properly clothed, etc.


If you suspect abuse or neglect, report it immediately. Help your elderly loved ones by ensuring their financial affairs are in order and continuing to stay connected and communicative. Educate the senior on financial scams and keep them engaged with others to avoid isolation. Make sure caregivers are supervised on a regular basis and try not to overlook any complaints that have been made. If you suspect abuse, you can file a report anonymously through the department of social services. Many care facilities provide hotlines and contact numbers for senior social workers and senior care regulation agencies that may also help.


Learn more about assisted living and other healthcare options at the main Assisted Living page or the main Caregiving page.

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About the Author: Victoria K. Stickley is a copywriter, editor, and senior content manager based in the Dallas area. Her graduate education in counseling and research has helped immensely in her writing as well as the care she provides for her grandparents. She currently provides support and resources to senior care websites as she learns and experiences senior care first-hand.