What are the Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse?

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been a victim of Elder Abuse in the past or has questions around the topic:

What is Elder Abuse? Definitions & Meanings
Who Commits Elder Abuse & Why?
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Elder Abuse?
Handling & Dealing with Elder Abuse
How to Report Elder Abuse (and Who to Report it to)
How can Elder Abuse be Prevented?
Elder Abuse Data & Statistics
Elder Abuse Helplines, Support & Further Reading


Unfortunately, elder abuse is more common than you might think. It can often take place in many forms, this can make it difficult to spot. The most common signs of elder abuse will include physical injuries, changes in behaviour and unexplained transactions with their finances.

In this guide we will discuss the signs of elder abuse in more detail, helping victims and families to keep their loved ones safe.

What does Elder Abuse look like?

Sadly elder abuse is often hidden, as the elderly person may not identify what is happening to them or try to cover up the signs because they fear the abuser. Some elderly people may not even be aware that the abuser’s actions are a form of abuse. For this reason, it is important to remember that elder abuse can occur without any signs, and so even if you are unsure, it is still best to follow up on any suspicion.

How can I spot and identify Elder Abuse?

Signs and symptoms of elder abuse will depend on the type of abuse affecting the victim, however, some of these include;

  • Physical injuries, such as bruises, cuts and broken bones
  • Malnourishment or weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Isolation, withdrawal from family and friends
  • Symptoms of anxiety, confusion or depression

Please note this is not exhaustive and there may be other signs like broken eyeglasses or if the carer refuses to allow you to see the elderly person alone. Remember if you suspect any signs of abuse, it’s important to speak up and report the problem

What are the tell-tale signs I am being (or have been) abused as an elderly person?

This can be a difficult position to be in, especially if you are unaware of what the abuser’s actions do/did

amount to abuse. However, it is important to remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, no one has a right to hurt or belittle you.

Some of the tell-tale signs that you are being abused (or have been) include;

  • The carer/abuser physically hurting you
  • Inappropriate touching
  • The carer/abuser asking you to lie to family members or authorities about how you were injured
  • If the carer shouts, swears or belittles you
  • You feel like you have been isolated from friends and family
  • Being forced or mislead to sign paperwork concerning loans, property or wills
  • Unexplained transactions on bank statements
  • Missing belongings, such as jewellery or other items
  • Not having access to basic needs such as food, clean clothing, or medical services.

This list is not exhaustive and the signs will depend on the type of abuse that is happening/happened to you. Remember if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, trust your instinct and share your concerns with a loved one or someone external to help you with this.

What are the tell-tale signs an Elderly person I know is being abused?

Sometimes the tell-tale signs can be difficult to recognise or easily be mistaken for dementia or the elderly person’s frailty, the abuser (normally the carer) will try to justify them to you in the same way. However, you should never dismiss any suspicions about the carer’s say-so. Some of the tell-tale signs include;

  • Unexplained signs of injury
  • Behaviour from the elderly person that mimics dementia, such as mumbling to themselves or rocking
  • Threatening, controlling or belittling behaviour by the carer
  • Torn, stained or bloody clothing
  • Unsanitary living conditions, soiled bedding or clothes
  • Unsuitable clothing for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions

Again this list is not exhaustive, if you suspect that abuse is happening, then make sure to share your concerns with the relevant authorities.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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