Our Blog:
Sharing new thoughts on aging.

An Important Step to End Elder Abuse: Learn these 11 Signs and Symptoms

Elder abuse and neglect is emerging as a critical public health issue. It is one of the most under-acknowledged and under-reported public health threats.

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as a "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.”

It can be broken down into 5 distinctive types of abuse:

  • Physical: This could come in the form of hitting, punching, slapping, restraining, confining, burning, kicking, giving excessive or improper medication, or otherwise hurting a senior.
  • Emotional: This might be the act of humiliating a senior or ridiculing, shunning, or aggressively yelling. Emotional abuse can also take the form of coercing an older person to take a particular action using threats.
  • Financial: The misappropriation of financial resources by family members, caregivers, or others. This often includes using financial means to control a senior or threaten them.
  • Sexual: Forcing a senior to participate in sexual acts or conversations against their will, or in the case that they can no longer give consent.
  • Neglect: Depriving a senior of proper medical care, food, heat, clothing, comfort, or needed services.

Each year, millions of older Americans are abused, neglected, and exploited. In Massachusetts, elder abuse reports have increased by 37 percent since 2011, with more than 1,000 additional cases reported in each of the past five years. In 2016 alone, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs recorded nearly 25,000 cases.

What can be done?

To start, it’s important to talk about elder abuse with family members, caregivers, community members, and seniors themselves. Sharing the signs and symptoms of elder abuse will allow us all to be more vigilant.

Some key signs and symptoms of elder abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Recurrent injuries
  • Reluctance of senior to go see a doctor
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Report of drug overdose or failure to take medicines
  • Signs of restraints on legs or wrists
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Missing possessions or cash
  • Unusual withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Unsafe living conditions

Elder abuse is a large and growing problem, but it’s not insurmountable. Hebrew SeniorLife, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs and Greater Boston Legal Services, has set out to combat the incidence of elder abuse in Massachusetts through education, awareness and action. For us, it starts with understanding the issue and talking about it within our communities. From there, if we can recognize the signs and symptoms, take action, and work together, we can make great strides in protecting our seniors.

About our Commitment to Address Elder Abuse
HSL President and CEO Lou Woolf  addressed the topic of elder abuse in his CEO blog, published on Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15). His blog reports on HSL’s participation in a June 12 panel of local leaders to discuss how best to address elder abuse in the Greater Boston community. The panel is the first step in our ongoing commitment to help find ways to stamp out elder abuse. HSL is exploring what it would take to establish a Center for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect, and would be the first health care organization to serve as a resource center for victims of elder abuse and neglect in Massachusetts. Please consider donating to make the Center a reality.
Support our Effort Here

About the Blogger

Add new comment

Read Our Latest E-Book

You can improve the lives of seniors today, and for generations to come.

Subscribe to our weekly blog

HSL in the News

For the latest news, visit Hebrew SeniorLife’s official website