How to Spot Elder Abuse in Dementia Patients


How to Spot Elder Abuse in Dementia Patients

There are many times when dementia patients, who often suffer from paranoia, accuse people of stealing from them or abusing them when no such abuse took place. However, the sad reality is that there are plenty more cases in which dementia patients are abused. Many who would seek to manipulate or defraud the elderly choose dementia patients as a target because the patients may not remember what happened or, because dementia often comes with paranoia and false beliefs, may not be believed. So how can you tell if your loved one is being abused? What are some of the signs? Here are some of the most common signs of elder abuse in dementia patients.

Unexplained Physical Anomalies

Look for unexplained physical injuries like bruises or cuts that shouldn’t be there. Often, these might be on the arms or legs. Sometimes, they will show up on the face or chest. Be sure to look underneath sleeves and pant legs, as well, since sometimes abusers will take pains to cover up their crimes. Look for signs of restraints, such as band-like injuries on the wrists or ankles. Physical anomalies don’t have to be on the person, though. They can also be on property the person owns. Broken eyeglasses, torn clothing, or clothing that has odd stains can all be indicators that abuse has taken place.

Strange Caregiver Behavior

You’re allowed to spend time with your family member unattended in almost every case. If you’re dealing with a caregiver who refuses to let you see your loved one without them present, or who tries to deny you access at all, that’s a huge red flag. Make sure to take note of threatening glances and more subtle signs of intimidation, as well, since that can often be a sign of abuse, as well.

Unexplained Withdrawal

If your loved one is typically outgoing and social and suddenly becomes withdrawn and reclusive, it could be a sign of abuse. While many dementia patients do become more withdrawn as the illness progresses, this behavior could also be a sign that they’re being abused and are starting to develop depression. They may also be avoiding an area where their abuser often frequents. Pay particular attention to withdrawn behavior that seems to manifest overnight. A slow and consistent withdrawal might just be the illness taking its course, but a sudden shift in behavior is relatively uncommon and might be a sign that something is going on.

Child-like Behaviors

Rocking, thumb sucking, and swaying can also be signs that abuse is taking place. Often, these repetitive behaviors are soothing, so dementia patients who can’t articulate their words very well or who might not want to talk about the abuse because of fear sometimes revert to these behaviors as a way of self-soothing.

Missing Money

If you start noticing unusual withdrawals or missing cash, financial abuse might be happening. Usually, when people think about elder abuse, they focus on physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. However, financial abuse is an extremely common form of elder abuse that often goes unnoticed. Make sure to keep tabs on your loved one’s financial situation and look for large, frequent, or simply unusual patterns of spending.

Unpaid Bills

Another sign of financial abuse could be unpaid bills. Make sure that all of your loved one’s bills are being paid on time and that they’re not dealing with situations like the power being shut off or the phone being disconnected. Unpaid bills could be an indication that someone else is using their funds.

A New Best Friend

Abusers aren’t always overtly abusive. Sometimes, their way of manipulation is to be overly nice. They might become incredibly close to someone they want to take advantage of in order to gain their trust. If you’re noticing other potential signs of abuse, particularly financial, and you notice that around the same time your loved one developed a new best friend, you might want to take a closer look at the situation. Of course, it could be a total coincidence, so you don’t want to assume abuse immediately, at least not by that person, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Changes in Wills, Trusts, or Accounts

Other forms of financial abuse can come to a point where the new best friend, or the abuser, convinces your loved one to add their name to will, trusts, or bank accounts. There might be a change in the will such as large amounts of funds being left to this new friend that previously had been reserved for family, an organization, or some other appointment. Make sure to keep an eye on these important documents and accounts so you can quickly figure out when someone is getting a little too close for comfort.

This is by no means a complete list of everything that could indicate elder abuse. However, these are some of the most common signs that elder abuse is taking place. Unfortunately, dementia patients are easy targets and often find themselves the victim of abuse that goes unnoticed because of the tendency of dementia patients to believe false things about others as well as their tendency to have unreliable memories. That being said, never dismiss a claim of abuse outright, and keep tabs on all the factors mentioned here so you can catch elder abuse early on. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, if you have a good reason to believe elder abuse is taking place, call an elder abuse attorney in your area right away so you can get the best help possible protecting your loved one.


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