It can be difficult to tell whether abuse is occurring, and it can be even more difficult to get the people in the situation to talk about it. Abuse may be hidden by isolation or disguised by what seems to be a pleasant home or facility setting.

Warning signs of abuse include:

  • Injuries incompatible with the explanation given
  • Dramatic weight loss, dehydration or poor hygiene
  • Untreated medical or mental health conditions
  • Unpaid bills despite adequate assets
  • Sudden appearance of new acquaintances
  • Enforced social isolation

Abuse can begin with seemingly normal negative interactions, but gradually escalate to abusive situations. Usually, in a situation where abuse occurs, one person is providing care to the other, while the other relies on that person for much or all of their care.

Abuse can occur for a variety of reasons, but common contributing factors are:

  • Stress created by the care needs of the senior or person with a disability
  • Inadequate financial resources
  • Isolation and lack of emotional support for people at risk and their caregivers
  • Existing family problems and dynamics