7 Signs of Elder Abuse and How to Help in Pennsylvania

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7 Signs of Elder Abuse and How to Help in Pennsylvania

Spot the signs of abuse in seniors and learn what resources are available.


It is a sad reality that elder abuse occurs on a regular basis in America. Elder abuse is widespread and impacts everyone in our society. One out of nine elders suffers abuse in one form or another

As the Baby Boomer generation gets older and the number of elders in America increases, it will become all the more important to be aware of the warning signs of elder abuse.

What is abuse?


Just like other kinds of abuse, elder abuse can take various forms:

Physical: Inflicting pain or injury through such actions as slapping, hitting, bruising or restraining. Physical abuse can also be inflicted through medication tampering—giving too much or withholding medication.

Sexual: Any nonconsensual sexual contact, whether comprehended or not.

Emotional: Inflicting mental anguish or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts such as threatening, intimidating or humiliating.

Neglect: Failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, healthcare or protection.

Financial: Illegal use, misuse or concealment of funds, property, assets or benefits for someone else’s gain.

Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable adult.

Signs of abuse:


Unexplained Physical Injuries and Symptoms

If a senior loved one has visible signs of injury, physical abuse or neglect may be occurring. Some people may be naturally prone to injury, so it is crucial to attempt to find out how injuries may have occurred. Physical injury can happen as a result of physical abuse, restraint, neglect or sexual abuse. Physical injuries and signs may include:

  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Bruising and welts
  • Broken bones
  • Sprains or dislocations
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Drug overdose
  • Rope marks on wrists

Poor Hygiene

An older adult getting neglectful care may additionally show poor personal and environmental hygiene. Any of the following types of substandard hygiene may indicate neglect:

  • A cluttered or dirty home
  • Appearing unwashed or unkempt
  • Poor basic hygiene such as hair washing or tooth brushing
  • Lacking clothing that is appropriate for the season
  • A home that is cluttered or dirty
  • A home in disrepair
  • A home lacking vital services such as electricity or water

Shaky or Unusual Relationship with Caregiver

The individual may also show signs of tension in their relationship with a specific caregiver. Warning signs may include:

  • Regular arguments or strain between the older adult and the caregiver
  • Isolation of the elder by the caregiver
  • Withdrawal from usual activities
  • The caregiver won’t allow anyone to drop by unexpectedly
  • Caregiver behaves in an aggressive or uncaring manner to the older adult

Medical Neglect

An elderly individual may show signs of medical neglect, which include:

  • Absence of important medical aids such as hearing aids, eyeglasses, or walkers
  • Lack of food or signs of malnourishment
  • Untreated bed and pressure sores
  • Inappropriate administration of medication

Abnormal Financial Behavior

Many signs of financial exploitation may occur as unusual financial behavior to include:

  • Bills that go unpaid
  • Missing belongings and property
  • Eviction notices
  • Lavish gift giving
  • Having a new best friend all of a sudden
  • Missing financial documentation
  • Checks or financial documents signed with unrecognizable or suspicious signatures
  • The senior is unaware or does not understand what financial arrangements have been made on their behalf
  • Significant unexplained withdrawals or routine bank transfers
  • Endorsed power of attorney and other legal documents executed by the elder who does not understand what they have signed
  • The senior no longer receive their financial documents or bank statements and/or they go to someone ese
  • Odd or implausible explanations of financial arrangements on behalf of the elder’s made by a caretaker or other trusted person


Inappropriate abandonment could be a sign of neglect or abuse. As an example, abandonment may occur:

  • When an elder that is bedridden or suffering from dementia is left alone
  • When an elder with a caregiver is left by themselves inappropriately in a public place such as a market

Uncharacteristic Personality or Behavioral Changes

An abused or neglected elder may also show strange or unexpected behavioral changes, including:

  • Verbally reported abuse
  • Withdrawal from regular activities or relationships
  • Demonstrations of fear, depression, anxiety, and nervousness
  • Easily startled
  • Eye contact avoidance or darting eyes quickly around
  • Changes in sleep patterns or nightmares
  • Displays of lethargy or apathy
  • Producing psychosomatic complaints
  • Displays of frightful behavior in the presence of just one person
  • Engaging in regressive behaviors such as sucking or rocking
  • Showing mood swings

Reporting elder abuse

If you suspect an elder is being abused, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s 24 hour hotline at 1-800-490-8505. 

Chosen Family is here for you and your loved one. Our trained specialists can help recognize the signs of elder abuse and offer resources for your loved one. Contact us today for supportive and compassionate caregivers of home care for your loved one. Read more of our insights for caring and practical resources for you or your loved one. 

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