Supporting Older Adults During the Holidays: Tip 6

Written by Camila Dos Santos, Program Coordinator of the Healthy Relationships Initiative & Heather Magill, Elder Justice Specialist Coordinator at the Guilford County Family Justice Center

Elder abuse is intentional mistreatment or neglect that causes harm to an older person. Elder abuse takes many forms, including: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, or psychological abuse.  Read more about abuse on the Guilford County Abuse is Never Okay campaign website here.

While anyone in an older adult’s life can potentially be a perpetrator of elder abuse, in almost 60% of elder abuse cases, the person is a family member and in almost ⅔ of cases, they are an adult child or spouse. Read more on elder abuse facts here

Being vigilant of the signs of elder abuse can help you keep your loved ones safe this holiday season. 

Physical abuse: Signs of physical abuse to older adults can include bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns. 

Emotional abuse: Signs of emotional abuse can include unexplained withdrawal, sudden changes in alertness, depression, strained/tense relationships, and frequent arguments between the caregiver and the older adults. 

Financial abuse: Sudden changes in their financial situation are a sign that a loved one may be experiencing financial abuse. Making changes to bank accounts, applying for new loans, and moving money around can be additional indicators that financial abuse is occurring. 

Neglect: Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss can be indicators of neglect. 

Verbal or emotional abuse:  Belitting, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals are examples of verbal or emotional abuse that can occur. 

While there are many different indicators of elder abuse, it’s also important to keep lines of communication open. This can help older adults feel comfortable sharing any experiences or concerns without fear or repercussions or judgment. 

Being aware of the signs of elder abuse can help you keep loved ones safe while enjoying their company this holiday season.