How to Spot Elder Abuse and Differentiate Between Self-Affliction

Get Your Free ConsultationView Results

It can be difficult to imagine that someone in a position of power could intentionally harm a defenseless elderly person. Sadly, this is a reality for many residents in nursing homes around the world. While it’s impossible to know exactly how many people suffer from elder abuse and neglect, the National Center on Elder Abuse estimates the prevalence of elder abuse in communities to be at least 10%. One study found that around 260,000 older adults in New York admitted to being victims of abuse in the prior year.

Unfortunately, these statistics don’t offer a complete picture; many people don’t report the abuse. Older adults often don’t report abuse and neglect for fear of retaliation or people not believing them. It’s up to you to help put an end to elder abuse by learning how to spot red flags.

Signs of Elder Neglect

The law requires nursing homes to uphold certain standards of care for their residents. These include providing for residents’ physical, mental, and psychosocial wellbeing. And a failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation is a typical definition of elder neglect. A nursing home must guarantee empathetic care, proper nutrition, and medical assistance as needed with trained and licensed professional staff. Unfortunately, many nursing homes cut corners to save on costs, inadequately feeding or caring for residents. This results in malnutrition, frequent illness or injury, and bedsores.

Indicators of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can be physical, mental, sexual, financial, or a combination. Common signs of physical abuse against the elderly are unexplained injuries or injuries with odd explanations. If the nursing home can’t really explain frequent visits to the hospital, broken bones, scratch marks, burns, or bruises, like explained on, it’s a red flag for physical abuse. Check beneath your loved one’s clothing for concealed abuse to the midriff or limbs. Bruises in the shape of handprints or pressure marks are especially questionable.

Mental abuse can be more difficult to spot, especially if you don’t know your elderly loved one very well or don’t visit often. Signs of mental or emotional abuse include withdrawal from typical activities, depression, anxiety, feelings of fear or guilt, and not wanting to partake in things one usually enjoys. Sexual abuse can also result in similar feelings, especially those of guilt or self-loathing. Check for physical signs of sexual abuse such as bruising on the thighs, difficult walking, or bloodstains in undergarments. Spot financial abuse and exploitation by keeping an eye on your loved one’s bank statements. Flag any large withdrawals or suspicious activity.

Abuse vs. Self-Affliction

An elderly person can sometimes inflict harm on him or herself by refusing care. Self-neglect can lead to a serious decline in health, frequent injuries, and an unwillingness to live. Identifying elder self-neglect or self-harm may take tests to assess your loved one for depression, dementia, psychosis, and cognitive awareness. Examine the upkeep of your loved one’s environment as well as personal hygiene for signs of self-neglect. If you detect neglect, investigate the matter further to differentiate between nursing home abuse and self-affliction. A study conducted by determined that 92% or surveyed care managers said that elder self-neglect was a problem at their facility.

Speak to the nursing home staff about your loved one, asking about his or her recent injuries or signs of depression. If the staff seems elusive, unwilling to speak to you, or abrasive, it may be a sign of elder abuse or neglect. The staff should be friendly and courteous to residents and their family members, honest and transparent regarding injuries, and willing to discuss mental health matters. Watch how the staff speaks to one another – this can be a good indication of how they speak to residents when no one else is around.

If you suspect elder abuse, contact law enforcement and report the situation. If you think your elderly loved one is in immediate danger, relocate him or her somewhere safe until the police can sort out the situation.

Seek Council from Our Baltimore Elder Abuse Attorney

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been victim of nursing home or elder care abuse, contact the team at Rice, Murtha & Psoras to speak with an experienced elder care abuse Attorney. Call them in Baltimore today! (410) 694-7291


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.