Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse

Not all signs and symptoms of abuse are physically visible on the outside; abuse can also cause emotional, financial and social symptoms that may not be easily identified at first.  These symptoms or changes may occur suddenly or gradually, and may be unexplained.  If these symptoms occur with no explanation, the possibility that abuse is occurring should be considered and explored.

Possible Signs of Physical Abuse


  • Lacerations
  • Bite marks
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Fractures
  • Swelling
  • Restricted or guarded movement
  • Repeated falls
  • Internal injuries

Possible Signs of Emotional (Psychological) Abuse

  • Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of family members, friends, or caregiver
  • Low self-esteem
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleep
  • Withdrawal
  • Passivity
  • Resignation
  • Weepy
  • Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness
  • Unexplained fear (especially around caregiver)
  • Significant change in weight

Possible Signs of Financial Abuse

  • Missing personal belongings
  • Unusual withdrawals from an elder's bank account
  • Forgeries
  • Large amounts of debt with no recollection of having used services
  • The selling of an elder's home without their knowledge/consent

Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Genital infections
  • Pain in genital area
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding in genital area
  • Inappropriate sexual comments by caregiver
  • Signs of physical restraint

Possible Signs of Neglect


  • Emaciated, malnourished, or dehydrated
  • Confused
  • Inappropriate or inadequately dressed
  • Under or over medicated
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Open sores
  • Poor hygiene

Home Environment

  • Home is dirty or in a state of disrepair
  • Smell of urine or feces in the home
  • Lack of required safety precautions in the home
  • Lack of needed assistive devices (walker, wheelchair, cane)


  • Left unattended when requiring assistance
  • Medical appointments are frequently cancelled or not attended

Caregiver signs of abuse

  • Verbally aggressive, threatening or insulting to elder
  • Shows unusual amount of concern over elder
  • Speaks for elder and doesn’t permit elder’s involvement
  • Reluctant to leave elder alone with other people