Many elderly people suffer abuse at the hands of their caregivers. Just as young children are sometimes targets for abuse, elderly people can be because they may be physically weak or mentally incompetent. Both elderly people who are still physically and mentally capable and people who love an elderly person need to be aware of the signs of elder abuse.

Changes in Behavior and Personality

This symptom can be difficult to detect because some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can also cause elderly people to act strangely. However, abuse can cause some people to seem paranoid, as if they expect everyone to hurt them. Abuse can also cause people to lash out angrily at others or, conversely, to become overly timid and accommodating. If the elderly person in your life is acting differently than he or she used to, ask to speak to any caregivers about it. If the caregiver is elusive, this may be a warning sign that the elderly person is being abused. You may also want to drop in unexpectedly on your loved one to see if something is going on.


There may be increased tension between the elderly person and his or her caregiver. Some elderly people have abrasive personalities due to disability or frailty, but caregivers are supposed to be trained to handle problems with them calmly. If there’s a lot of tension, the caregiver is probably ineffective, and in some cases may actually be abusing the elderly person.

Unexplained Injuries

Unexplained cuts, bruises or other injuries could be a sign of physical abuse. While elderly people can be physically frail, one of the reasons for hiring a caregiver is to protect them from injuring themselves. If an elderly person seems to always have fresh, new injuries, it’s possible the caregiver is abusing him or her. This is especially true if you can’t get an explanation that makes sense for the injuries.

Medication Problems

One way that some caregivers abuse elders is by controlling their access to medication. Caregivers may purposely overdose an abuse victim to keep them too doped up to talk about what’s going on. Some caregivers also fail to give abuse victims medication as “punishment” or as a means of controlling them. If an elderly person seems to have too much or too little medication in his or her prescription bottles, it’s likely that a caregiver is controlling access to medication as a means of restricting the person’s behavior.

Peter Wendt is a freelance article writer and commercial researcher working out of Austin.

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