Ways to spot elder abuse

By Angie Matuszewski

Information and

Assistance Specialist/

Long-Term Care


Aging and Disabilities Resource Center of Florence


FLORENCE, Wis. — Abuse can happen to anyone — no matter the person’s age, sex, race, religion, or ethnic or cultural background. Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults older than age 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited. This is called elder abuse.

Abuse can happen in many places, including the older person’s home, a family member’s house, an assisted living facility or a nursing home. The mistreatment of older adults can be by family members, strangers, health care providers, caregivers or friends.

There are many types of abuse —

— Physical abuse happens when someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing or slapping. This may also include restraining an older adult against his/her will, such as locking them in a room or tying them to furniture.

— Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, can include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older adult. Keeping that person from seeing close friends and relatives is another form of emotional abuse.

— Neglect occurs when the caregiver does not try to respond to the older adult’s needs. This may include physical, emotional, and social needs, or withholding food, medications, or access to health care.

— Self neglect occurs when the elderly person behaves in a way that threatens his/her own health or safety and generally manifests itself by failure to provide himself/herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication (when indicated), and safety precautions.

— Abandonment is leaving an older adult who needs help alone without planning for his or her care.

— Sexual abuse involves a caregiver forcing an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.

— Financial abuse happens when money or belongings are stolen from an older adult. It can include forging checks, taking someone else’s retirement or Social Security benefits, or using a person’s credit cards and bank accounts without their permission. It also includes changing names on a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or title to a house without permission.

You may see these signs of abuse or neglect —

— Stops taking part in activities he or she enjoys;

— Looks messy, with unwashed hair or dirty clothes;

— Has trouble sleeping;

— Loses weight for no reason;

— Becomes withdrawn or acts agitated or violent;

— Displays signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth;

— Has unexplained bruises, burns, cuts or scars;

— Has broken eyeglasses/frames, or physical signs of punishment or being restrained;

— Develops bed sores or other preventable conditions;

— Lacks medical aids (glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aid, medications);

— Has an eviction notice for unpaid rent, notice of late mortgage, or home eviction;

— Has hazardous, unsafe, or unclean living conditions;

— Displays signs of insufficient care or unpaid bills despite adequate financial resources.

If you think someone you know is suffering from elder abuse, reach out to your local Adult Protective Services Agency or local law enforcement. For Florence County residents: Florence County Adult Protective Services, 715-528-3296 or the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, 715-528-3346.

For more information on elder abuse, contact the ADRC of Florence County at 715-528-4890, or stop by the office. The ADRC is in the lower level of the Florence County Courthouse, 501 Lake Ave. You can also go to the web at www.florencecountywi.com, click on Aging and Disability Resource Center, or check out the ADRC of Florence County Facebook page.


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