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Elder Abuse: Types, Signs and Statistics

Types of abuse and neglect, warning signs and what to do if you suspect it is happening.

Elder abuse is a term that includes physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect and financial exploitation. Last year, in the US alone, there were 500,000 reports of abuse against the elderly and millions more cases unreported.

Many victims are older, frail, and vulnerable people who depend on others for basic needs and are less able to defend themselves. Perpetrators may be family members, friends, or professional care givers. Studies show that 46% of all seniors receiving long-term care have been abused, neglected, or involved in a serious accident due to negligence by care givers.

Abuse occurs most frequently where the elder lives, particularly if there are adult children, grandchildren, or a spouse in the home. However, elder abuse can also occur in institutional settings.

Common Types of Abuse & Neglect

  • Physical Abuse:

Defined as the use of physical force, including restraint, that may result in bodily injury or physical pain.

  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse:

Anguish, pain, or distress caused by verbal or nonverbal acts.  Common examples include treating an adult like an infant or isolating an elder from family, friends, and regular activities.

  • Abandonment:

The desertion of an elderly person by the caregiver.

  • Sexual Abuse:

Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.

  • Neglect:

Failure to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection.

  • Financial or Material Exploitation:

The illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets.

Know the Signs

Abuse can be difficult to detect. Often, evidence is dismissed as dementia or the inability of the elder to describe events clearly. This may be reinforced by negligent caregivers, making detection even more challenging.
It is important to listen carefully to elders and their caregivers and remain alert for warning signs of abuse:

  • Frequent arguments or tension between the caregiver and the elder
  • Changes in personality or behavior in the elder
  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, welts, especially if they appear symmetrically
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Signs of being restrained
  • Caregiver reluctance to let you visit the elder alone
  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service
  • Evidence of overmedication or undermedication
  • Unexplained changes to the elder’s financial accounts, including sudden withdrawals, additional account holders, missing items, or unusual purchases

What To Do

Hawk PI can provide experienced investigators with the skills and commitment to find the truth.

We understand that the decision to hire an investigator is not an easy one, and we perform our work with discretion and professionalism.  If you have questions about the signs of elder abuse or the investigative process, please contact us for a consultation.

If you suspect a loved one, may be the victim of physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, or neglect, Hawk PI may be able to help.  Experienced investigators can assist with all aspects of an elder abuse including:

  • Uncovering and documenting evidence of abuse or neglect
  • Financial and fraud investigations
  • Asset investigations and tracking
  • Witness/employee/suspect interviews
  • Surveillance, including hidden cameras
  • Background investigations
  • Expert witness testimony
  • Liaison with law enforcement agencies for criminal cases
  • Suspicious or wrongful death investigations


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