Recognizing Elder Abuse, Neglect and




Every year, hundreds of thousands of older Americans and adults with disabilities experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Abuse can happen anywhere, including in the person’s home, in a facility responsible for the person’s care, or in the home of a friend or relative. People who have no family or friends in the area and people with memory problems or dementia may be particularly vulnerable.

See the chart below to learn how to recognize different types and signs of elder abuse.

Your help can make an incredible difference in the life of a vulnerable adult. Click here for information about reporting elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.


How do I recognize elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation?


General signs of abuse, neglect, or exploitation may include: 

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Confusion, agitation, or frequent sadness
  • Decreased involvement in activities that the person previously enjoyed
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Poor hygiene
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of money to meet basic needs


Physical Abuse

Physical abuse happens when someone uses physical force to cause bodily harm to an older person. It may involve pushing, shoving, hitting, slapping, shaking, kicking, burning, or pinching, over-medication, the inappropriate use of restraints, or other acts that can cause physical harm.

Signs of physical abuse may include: 

  • Unexplained bruising, scrapes, scars, or other injuries
  • Over-medication or inappropriate use of drugs
  • Force-feeding
  • Broken eye glasses
  • Withholding a walker, wheelchair, or other needed physical aids



Neglect and Self-Neglect

Neglect happens when a caregiver refuses or fails to meet the older person's basic needs. This is the most common form of abuse among older adults.

Self-Neglect happens when the older person himself is unable to meet his own needs and suffers harm as a result.

Signs of neglect or self-neglect may include: 

  • Poor hygiene, such as dirty clothes or infrequent bathing
  • Untreated health issues
  • Lack of medication or not taking medicine on schedule
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Dehydration or malnourishment
  • Bed sores
  • Inappropriate clothing for the weather
  • Unsafe or very dirty home
  • Lack of electricity or running water in the home
  • Lack of eye glasses, walker, wheelchair, or other needed aids
  • Leaving a vulnerable person somewhere without proper care



Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Emotional or Psychological Abuse happens when someone uses verbal or non-verbal behaviors to cause mental pain, fear, or distress. This may involve name-calling, insults, intimidation or threats, ignoring, yelling, verbal harassment, or isolating the person from loved ones.

 Signs of emotional or psychological abuse may include: 

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Becoming withdrawn or non-communicative
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Frequent arguments between the caregiver and the older person



Financial Abuse and Exploitation

Financial Abuse or Exploitation happens when someone uses an older person’s money, property, or assets for the benefit of someone other than the older person.

 Signs of financial abuse or exploitation may include: 

  • Missing money or belongings
  • Forged checks or forged signatures
  • Charges on a credit card or bank account that the older person does not recognize
  • A new joint bank account or a new user on the older person’s bank account
  • Social Security or VA funds being used by someone else
  • Changes to a will or life insurance policy
  • Changes to the title for a home or other property
  • A family member or friend living with the older person and using the older person’s money



Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse happens when someone forces an older person to watch or be part of unwanted sexual acts, or when someone has sexual contact with an older adult who is not physically or mentally able to give consent. This includes sexual harassment, rape or non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, forced nudity, taking photos or videos of the older person that are nude or sexual in nature, and forcing the older person to look at sexual photos or pornography.

Signs of sexual abuse may include: 

  • Unexplained STDs or infections
  • Mentioning that someone is pressuring them to do things that make them feel uncomfortable
  • Bruising near the breasts or genital area
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing


In Florida, any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a vulnerable adult has been or is being abused, neglected, or exploited must immediately report this knowledge or suspicion to the abuse hotline.

Click here to read Florida’s Adult Protective Services law


Abuse Hotline: 1-800-962-2873

Abuse Hotline for the Deaf: 1-800-453-5145


Click here for more information about reporting elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.



More Elder Abuse Information and Resources



Questions? Need help? Please call (561) 684-5885 and press option 3 to leave a voicemail for our Elder Rights Center. We check our voicemail daily and will respond to you as quickly as possible


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