6 Signs of Elder Abuse in Seniors with Dementia

Seniors with dementia are more vulnerable to abuse

Seniors with dementia sometimes make false accusations and claim that family or caregivers are mistreating them or stealing from them. In these cases, dementia is making them paranoid and delusional.

But unfortunately, there are times when seniors with dementia are being abused. 

People with Alzheimer’s or dementia are especially vulnerable to abuse because of their impaired memory, communication skills, and judgment.

Unscrupulous people take advantage of these vulnerable seniors because they’re easy targets.

They’re not likely to report the problem, they might not be believed, or they might not be aware that abuse is happening.

To protect your older adult, we explain how to spot warning signs of elder abuse across 6 types of abuse.

We also recommend organizations you can contact for help if you suspect abuse.




6 warning signs of elder abuse in dementia

Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that causes harm or loss to an older adult. 

Abuse is generally divided into 6 categories. In each category, we share red flags that are strong signs of elder abuse.

Even if your older adult doesn’t recognize what’s happening or can’t speak for themselves, these warning signs will help you notice when something suspicious is going on so you can advocate on their behalf.

1. Physical abuse
Physical abuse is when someone purposely causes injury, pain, or impairment to an older adult. It also includes isolation and the inappropriate use of restraints.

Warning signs include:

Unexplained injuries, like bruises, welts, burns, new scars, broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
Reports of drug overdose or not taking medication regularly (like when a prescription has more left at the end of the month than it should)
Broken eyeglasses
Signs of being restrained, like rope marks on wrists
The caregiver refuses to let you to see the older adult without them present

2. Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse, threats, harassment, humiliation, and intimidation.

Warning signs include:

Any kind of threatening, belittling, or controlling behavior that you observe
When the older adult shows increased signs of agitation like rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves
Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unexpected depression
The caregiver refuses to let you see the older adult without them present

Note: Emotional abuse can be especially tough to spot in seniors with dementia. Many of these signs of abuse are similar to typical dementia symptoms. If you spot these signs, listen to your gut, be watchful, and investigate until you’re satisfied that your older adult isn’t being harmed.

3. Financial abuse
Financial abuse is when someone illegally or improperly uses an older adult’s money, property, or other resources.

That includes cashing their checks without permission, forging their signature, stealing their money or possessions, coercing or deceiving them into signing documents like contracts or a will.

Warning signs include:

Sudden changes in the older adult’s financial situation
Irregular spending and withdrawals from the older adult’s accounts, withdrawals made despite penalties
Addition of authorized users to the older adult’s bank accounts, credit or debit cards
Items or cash missing from their home
Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
Unpaid bills or lack of medical care when the older adult should have enough money to pay
Financial activity the older adult couldn’t have done themselves, like an ATM withdrawal when they’re bedridden
Utilities turned off
A new “best friend” or “sweetheart”

4. Sexual abuse
Any non-consensual sexual contact is sexual abuse.

That includes touching, fondling, and any sexual activity that happens when the person is unable to understand, not willing or consenting, threatened, or physically forced.

Warning signs include:

Bruises around breasts or genitals
Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
Torn, stained, or bloody underwear

5. Neglect or self-neglect
When a caregiver fails to provide or purposely withholds necessities like food, clothing, shelter, medication, medical care, physical assistance, or a safe environment, that is neglect.

But when a person doesn’t provide for their own essential needs, that’s self-neglect.

Due to their cognitive impairment, seniors with dementia might not be able to provide for their own day-to-day needs. That puts them at risk for falls, wandering, infection, and malnutrition.

Warning signs include:

Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration
Unattended medical needs or untreated physical conditions like bed sores
Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes
Poor hygiene – being dirty or unbathed
Unsuitable clothing for the weather
Unsafe living conditions (hoarding, no heat or running water, fire hazards)
Deserting the older adult in a public place

6. Healthcare fraud and abuse
If a healthcare provider is falsifying patient information for financial gain or not providing proper care, that’s healthcare fraud.

Warning signs include:

Problems in a care community, like poorly trained or too few staff, resident crowding, not responding to call bells or alarms, or no improvement in care after major issues are brought to staff or administrator attention
Over-medication or under-medication
Inadequate care even though bills are paid in full
Billing for services that were not provided or duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
Billing for a covered service when the service actually provided was not covered
Misrepresenting the service provided
Being charged for a more complex or expensive service than was actually provided




What to do if you suspect elder abuse: 6 ways to report a problem

If you see signs of elder abuse, it’s important to intervene on your older adult’s behalf.

You may be able to fire and report a hired caregiver, move your older adult out of a neglectful care community, or prevent an abusive family member from seeing your older adult.

When you need help from authorities, there are 6 main options for reporting elder abuse. 

To make a report, you don’t need to prove that abuse is occurring. It’s up to the professionals to investigate the suspicions.

In an emergency situation, call 911 or the local police
Call your local Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. In most states, APS is the primary agency for abuse and neglect reports. Your report will be kept confidential, regardless of the outcome.
Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse to find contact info for state-level resources
Call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for information or a referral to the correct local agency
Contact the long-term care ombudsman to get help with problems in a long term care community
Call the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900


Recommended for you:

5 Ways to Keep an Eye on Your Senior’s In Home Caregiver
Signs That You Hired the Wrong Caregiver
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse of Seniors with Dementia


By DailyCaring Editorial Team

The post 6 Signs of Elder Abuse in Seniors with Dementia appeared first on DailyCaring.

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