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Prevention & Warning Signs

There are a number of actions that can help prevent elder abuse. These actions, paired with knowing the warning signs, can make a positive change in the life of someone being abused.

Preventing Elder Abuse

  • Break down isolation.
  • Engage with your community.
  • Keep active.
  • Avoid living with someone who is known to be abusive or violent.
  • Be wary of caregivers or friends needing financial help, or those who have issues with illicit drugs.
  • Stay on top of your own financial affairs.
  • Don’t allow a caretaker or family member to impulsively alter wills, or add their names to financial accounts or land titles.
  • Be wary of solicitations from the telephone, internet, or mail.

Recognize the Warning Signs

Physical Abuse

  • Unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two sides of the body.
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations.
  • Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should).
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames.
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists.
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the older adult alone.

Emotional Abuse

  • Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior.
  • Behavior that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves.

Sexual Abuse

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals.
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding.
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.

Elder Neglect or Self-Neglect

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration.
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores.
  • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes.
  • Being left dirty or unbathed.
  • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather.
  • Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water; faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards).


  • Desertion of the older adult at a public place.

Financial Exploitation

  • Significant withdrawals from personal accounts.
  • Sudden changes in financial condition.
  • Items or cash missing from the household.
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies.
  • Addition of names on a signature card.
  • Financial activity the older adult couldn’t have done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden.
  • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions.