Recognizing Abuse

Sometimes these signs are mistaken as a part of growing older or may look like other health conditions. For example, mental confusion, depression or anxiety resulting from abuse or neglect may look like dementia. People may not realize that sometimes older adults are experiencing frequent falls or have long-term pain because they are being abused or neglected.

The existence of any one or more of these indicators does not necessarily mean that abuse has occurred. Instead, treat them as signs that diligent attention or investigation is needed.

Behavioural warning signs

The older adult may display one or more of the following behavioural characteristics:

  • Withdrawn
  • Confused or extremely forgetful
  • Depressed
  • Helpless or angry
  • Hesitant to talk freely
  • Frightened
  • Secretive

Isolation warning signs

  • The older adult is isolated or lonely with no visitors or relatives. Family members or caregiver isolate the individual, restricting the person's contact with others.
  • The older adult is not given the opportunity to speak freely or have contact with others without the caregiver being present.

Other warning signs

  • Unusual bank account activity, such as withdrawals from automatic teller machines when the individual cannot get to the bank.
  • Signatures on cheques and other documents that do not resemble the older adult's signature.
  • Checks or other documents signed when the person cannot write or understand what he or she is signing.
  • Lack of personal amenities, appropriate clothing and grooming items.
  • Numerous unpaid bills when someone else has been designated to pay the bills.
  • Change in spending patterns, such as buying items he or she doesn't need and can't use.
  • The appearance of a stranger who begins a new close relationship and offers to manage the elder's finances and assets.
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