Even as the number of elderly adults in the U.S. continues to rise, recent studies show that cases of neglect, abuse and financial manipulation by caregivers remain all too common. Last summer, a study by the Department of Health and Human Services revealed that an estimated 1 in 5 emergency room visits by nursing home residents was the result of abusive or inattentive care. 

The report also found that healthcare facilities often fail to report such incidents to enforcement agencies, despite the fact that the law requires care workers to do so. That makes it crucial that those with loved ones receiving long-term care in a facility or at home pay close attention to potential physical and psychological signs that could indicate abuse or neglect. 

Recognizing possible signs of abuse 

Caregiver misconduct may take the form of physical harm, failure to provide needed medical attention, emotional or psychological abuse and even financial exploitation. Potential signs that a loved one may be a victim of mistreatment include: 

  • Poor living conditions and/or personal hygiene, including dirty living spaces, unwashed linens or clothing and a generally unkempt appearance 
  • Unexplained and/or repeated injuries or infections, including broken bones, bruises and issues with bed sores or malnutrition 
  • Sudden emotional or behavioral changes, including depression, agitation and withdrawal from social activities 
  • Rapidly deteriorating mobility, which may be a sign that caregivers are not attending to physical therapy needs or even keeping a patient unnecessarily confined 
  • Abrupt changes to medications and dosage amounts without proper personal or family consent, especially cases of unnecessary antipsychotic drugs 
  • Unusual or unexpected financial activity, including unexplained withdrawals or transfers, unpaid bills or sudden changes to a will 

Elderly and disabled individuals often face issues with social isolation as well as mental and physical impairment that may make them especially vulnerable to caregiver abuse. That makes it imperative that family members and friends remain vigilant for potential signs of neglect.