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Elder Abuse: Warning Signs and How to Report It

The rapidly increasing number of older persons in Virginia and the United States is widely known. What is not so well known is that an estimated 4-5% of older persons are physically or sexually abused, neglected, or financially exploited each year, too often leading to destitution, physical injury or even death.

Elder abuse is vastly under-reported. Estimates are that only one in 24 physical abuse cases, one in 44 financial abuse cases, and one in 57 neglect cases are actually reported to an agency. Elder mistreatment is usually carried out by the victim’s own family members or other caregivers, the very people upon whom they depend for food and care.

Elder victims who cannot protect themselves are often invisible to the wider community and to helping agencies, so that victims may suffer for years without intervention.

If you think a senior is a victim of abuse look for these possible warning signs. For physical abuse, look for slap marks, unexplained bruises and various stages of healing in bruises, burns, or blisters. Also watch for withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, or other unusual behavior. Any bruising around the genital area or breasts can be a sign of sexual abuse.

Financial exploitation is on the rise throughout the United States. If you see a sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as “loans” or “gifts”, and loss of property, these can be signs of financial exploitation and should be reported.

If you suspect elder abuse or neglect contact Linda Shortt, Ombudsman at Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens at 276-964-7127 or 1-800-656-2272.