Elder Abuse & Neglect

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Elder Abuse and Neglect is a serious and growing problem. If you suspect that an elder is being abused or is neglecting themselves, a special state agency can help.

You may call the Shrewsbury Council on Aging or fill out our Request Help for a Senior form online, or you may call the Shrewsbury Police at 508-845-1212.

You may also call the Commonwealth's Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-AGE-INFO.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. The specificity of laws varies from state to state, but broadly defined, abuse may be:

  • Abandonment - The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person
  • Emotional Abuse - Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts
  • Exploitation - Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property or assets of a vulnerable elder
  • Neglect - Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder
  • Physical abuse - Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need
  • Sexual Abuse - Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind

What is self-neglect and what are the signs?

Tragically, sometimes elders neglect their own care, which can lead to illness or injury. Self-neglect can include behaviors such as:

  • Confusion
  • Dehydration
  • Failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness
  • Hoarding
  • Inability to attend to housekeeping
  • Leaving a burning stove unattended
  • Not wearing suitable clothing for the weather
  • Poor hygiene

Other Problems

Self-neglect accounts for the majority of cases reported to adult protective services. Oftentimes, the problem is paired with:

  • Alzheimer's disease or dementia
  • Declining health
  • Drug and alcohol dependency
  • Isolation

What are the warning signs of elder abuse?

While 1 sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:

  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.

When to Question

Most important is to be alert. The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

More Information

Read our section on family caregivers for more information about how caregivers can prevent elder abuse.