Signs of Elder Abuse

Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect

If you have parents, grandparents, or other loved ones currently living in a nursing or elder care home, you want them to be safe, happy, and well cared for. Unfortunately, you cannot be there every day to look after them, and sometimes the unthinkable can happen. If you are concerned about your elderly loved one’s welfare, keep an eye out for the  signs of elder abuse.

Nobody knows for sure the prevalence of elder abuse. Different studies on the subject have reached different results. However, the numbers these studies published are chilling:

  • 7.6 to 10 percent of respondents reported experiencing elder abuse during the previous year
  • Another study estimated that only 7 percent of elder abuse cases ever get reported
  • 13 out of 14 cases of abuse never come to the attention of authorities

Being aware of the signs of elder abuse is crucial for the safety and well-being of our elderly loved ones. Identifying and addressing these signs in a timely manner can make all the difference. Familiarize yourself with the following critical markers.

1. Unexplained Wounds

If your loved one displays any of the following, it could be a sign that someone trusted with his or her care has been inflicting abuse:

  • Unexplained bruises
  • Bleeding
  • Open sores
  • Burns
  • Scratches
  • Ligature marks around the wrists, ankles, or throat

A single instance of a mild bruise is probably nothing to worry about, without other indicators. However, a pattern of unexplained wounds, burns, or bruising is probably an indication that something is amiss.

Ask your loved one how they received the injuries. Another alarming sign to be wary of is if your loved one becomes isolated or if their caregivers prevent you from having private or unscheduled visits. This may be an attempt to hide any signs of abuse or prevent the victim from communicating the same. Even if they deny that someone has been hurting them, it is still wise to be wary. Pay attention to any drastic changes in the way your loved one communicates. A sudden reluctance to talk, or a noticeable change in tone when caregivers are present, might suggest they are being coerced or intimidated. Many victims of elder abuse are afraid to report it, out of fear of reprisal. If their responses to your queries seem to make no sense, consider following up to find out more. If you begin to notice unexpected or unexplained expenses, withdrawals, or gifts in your loved one’s financial statements, this may indicate financial abuse. Ensure to regularly check their financial status and inquire about any discrepancies.

Unexplained bruises

Bruising occurs when blood vessels are damaged or broken due to an injury. In the elderly, skin becomes thinner, and blood vessels more fragile, making them prone to bruising. However, unexplained or recurring bruises, especially in concealed or protected areas of the body, can be an alarming sign. It might indicate rough handling, physical altercations, or the use of restraints.


While minor accidents can lead to occasional bleeding, repeated instances, especially without a clear source, are concerning. Unexplained bleeding can signify deliberate harm, mishandling, or even the inappropriate use of medical instruments. In elder care environments, any instances of unanticipated bleeding should be thoroughly investigated.

Open sores

Open sores can develop from untreated wounds or continuous friction against a surface. In a nursing or elder care setting, open sores may indicate neglect, especially if caregivers do not provide adequate wound care or frequently move immobile patients. Additionally, sores may become infected if not treated, leading to more serious complications.


Burns in an elder care environment can be an immediate red flag. While accidents involving hot liquids or surfaces can happen, the frequency and severity of burns are important indicators. Recurring or severe burns might suggest deliberate harm or profound neglect. It’s also crucial to differentiate between accidental burns and those potentially caused by cigarettes or electrical appliances.


Scratches can result from a variety of sources: interactions with objects, accidental self-infliction, or even through aggressive physical contact with another person. However, frequent or severe scratches, especially in patterns or specific locations, might suggest harmful interactions or deliberate infliction.

Ligature marks around the wrists, ankles, or throat

Ligature marks typically appear as discolored bands or lines, indicating that an object was used to bind or strangle an individual. In an elder care context, these marks are deeply troubling. They might suggest the inappropriate use of restraints or even attempted strangulation. Immediate attention and investigation are warranted in any situation where such marks appear.

2. Bed Sores or Infections

Repeated instances of bedsores and infections in nursing home patients might be an indication of neglect. Active elder abuse is probably not occurring, but your loved ones might not be receiving the care they need.

Bedsores occur when a patient stays immobile for long periods, and are the result of unrelieved pressure on the dermis, or outer skin layer. Reputable and efficiently run elder care facilities monitor immobile patients and help them relieve the pressure by regularly rolling onto one side or the other.

A pattern of bedsores and infections might indicate that caregivers are neglecting your loved one’s needs.

3. Listlessness or Depression

Victims of elder abuse often fall into a state of listlessness or depression caused by feelings of helplessness and despair. If your loved one, who has, up until this point, been mentally acute and aware, suddenly becomes unresponsive and seemingly unaware of his or her surroundings, it might indicate elder abuse is occurring. Of course, many other things can cause listlessness and depression, including medicines, loneliness, and deteriorating health. However, if the behavior arises suddenly, take note.

4. Disappearance of Personal Items

If your loved one’s personal items disappear without explanation, it might indicate caregivers, administrators, or other patients have taken them. Again, one instance is not cause for alarm, but a pattern of this type could spell trouble.

Most elder care facilities are reputable and safe. However, if you encounter any of the above signs, especially two or more combination, be aware that it could indicate your loved one is a victim of elder abuse. If you suspect a loved one has been injured, neglected or abused while in the care of a Southern California nursing home, assisted living facility or caretaker, or if you are the victim, it is important to contact Moran Law immediately to discuss your case.