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  • Writer's pictureLani Byrd


Around 1 in 6 people 60 years and older experienced some form of abuse during the past year.

Elder abuse is a serious issue that can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial abuse, and neglect or abandonment. It can lead to physical injuries, mental health issues, decreased quality of life, and an increased mortality risk. This is a significant global issue, but sadly it often goes unreported; only about 1 in 14 cases comes to the attention of authorities. Abuse can be perpetrated by family members, caregivers, intimate partners, or institutional staff.

June 15th marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Take a moment to learn how to identify elder abuse and review 6 ways that you can help right now.


Recognizing the signs of elder abuse is crucial in order to provide help and support to those who may be experiencing it. Here are some common signs to look for and steps you can take to assist:

Physical Abuse Signs:

  • Unexplained injuries, bruises, or fractures

  • Frequent accidents or injuries

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration

  • Medication misuse or overuse

  • Broken eyeglasses or signs of restraints on wrists

Emotional/Psychological Abuse Signs:

  • Withdrawal or sudden change in behavior

  • Depression, anxiety, or fearfulness

  • Social isolation or lack of interest in activities

  • Emotional agitation or distress

  • Caregiver's controlling or belittling behavior

Sexual Abuse Signs:

  • Unexplained genital infections or injuries

  • Torn or bloody undergarments

  • Difficulty sitting or walking

  • Emotional distress or withdrawal

  • Sudden or unexplained changes in behavior or personality

Financial Abuse Signs:

  • Unusual or sudden changes in bank accounts or financial transactions

  • Missing personal belongings or valuables

  • Unexplained or frequent large withdrawals or transfers

  • Unpaid bills or utility shut-off notices

  • Sudden changes to wills, power of attorney, or beneficiaries

Neglect/Self-Neglect Signs:

  • Poor personal hygiene, dirty living conditions, or inadequate clothing

  • Lack of necessary medical aids (glasses, hearing aids, walkers, etc.)

  • Untreated health problems or medication mismanagement

  • Malnourishment or dehydration

  • Isolation or abandonment


  1. Stay observant: Look for signs of abuse or neglect and document any specific incidents or concerns.

  2. Communicate: Talk to the older adult in a private, supportive setting, expressing concern for their well-being and offering help. Listen attentively and validate their experiences.

  3. Offer support: Encourage them to seek medical or mental health assistance if needed. Provide information about local resources such as helplines, support groups, or adult protective services. (See "Resources for Help" below).

  4. Report the abuse: If you have reasonable suspicion or evidence of abuse, report it to the appropriate authorities, such as local law enforcement, adult protective services, or a designated elder abuse hotline. (See "Resources for Help" below).

  5. Involve others: If appropriate, involve family members, friends, or other trusted individuals who can provide additional support and assistance.

  6. Donate your unused cell phones or other personal electronic devices to a nonprofit organization such as the 911 Cell Phone Bank. These devices are securely data erased and donated back to law enforcement and victim agencies in order to assist victims of abuse. Here is just one experience where a donated phone helped an elderly victim:

"The victim was suffering from mild dementia and her children were holding her captive in her own home. They had taken her money and her phone to prevent her from calling for help. She escaped through an open garden gate to a neighbor’s house. We transported her to the hospital and provided her with a free 911 Cell Phone Bank phone at the hospital. This elderly victim was so comforted by the ability to talk with her family members that she had been separated from. Providing her with a free cell phone helped her to regain independence, dignity, and freedom. It was very empowering for her." - Drew Hogan, Westminster Police, CO

Remember, it's important to prioritize the safety and well-being of the older adult. By recognizing the signs of elder abuse and taking action, you can play a vital role in protecting vulnerable individuals and helping them regain control of their lives.


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