Protecting Your Loved Ones Against Elder Abuse

Key Signs to Watch For to Protect Your Loved Ones


In-home caregivers (professionals, family and friends) play an important role in keeping a loved one at home. While these caregiver’s jobs are to keep their clients safe, secure and independent at home, unfortunately there have been some cases of caregivers taking advantage of their vulnerable senior clients by neglecting, abusing and stealing from them. 

What can you do to make sure your loved one is in good hands with their caregiver?

How can you prevent any neglect and abuse from occurring? 

Here are a few signs that might tell you if your loved one is being abused and/or neglected by their caregiver. Of course, no one should jump to conclusions, but signs and symptoms should be taken seriously. What sometimes seems to be self-neglect often turns out to be elder abuse.

Key signs to watch for

  1. Inconsistencies between your loved ones standard of living and his/her financial assets, or a run off of assets without an explanation. Money or personal items such as eyeglasses, jewelry, hearing aids, or dentures are missing without explanation.
  2. Malnourishment and inadequate physical care, including dehydration or lack of food, poor hygiene, urine sores, or bed sores, or over-sedation.
  3. Physical injuries such as bruises, burn marks, welts, rope burns, tufts of hair missing, broken bones, none of which can be adequately explained.
  1. Withdrawn, apathetic, fearful, or anxious behavior, particularly around certain persons. Your loved one may all of a sudden express a desire not to be visited by friends and family members.
  2. You discover that medical needs are not attended to.
  3. Sudden, unexplained changes in your loved ones living arrangements, such as a younger person moving in to "help care for" for your loved one.
  1. Sexual abuse which present with bruises in the genital area.

There are more than 2.5 million cases of elder abuse reported each year, and as many as five cases that go unreported for each reported case. And while it's easy to assume that elder abuse occurs only in institutional settings, many of these cases take place in the home with a caregiver the family has hired to watch over their loved one.

Here are some steps to prevent elder abuse. Remember, if you engage a friend or family member then you or someone you trust would do some of the “heavy-lifting” outlined below.

Background checks

The caregiver should have a national background checked completed upon hiring and then moving forward every six months, and these checks should include a motor vehicle background review as well. 

Shop around

Hiring an in-home healthcare worker is one of the most important decisions a family can make. Even if the healthcare worker comes highly recommended and has an impressive resume, the match needs to feel like a good one to the family and especially the patient.

Take your time and shop around!!

Meet ahead of time

Once you find an in-home healthcare agency with which you are comfortable, the next step is meeting with the person who will actually be providing the care. Insist on meeting the actual healthcare worker who you will be letting into your home. This way you can be proactive if something “just doesn’t feel right.”

Quality assurance checks

Pop in unannounced quality assurance checks are a must!  It is just that simple. A reputable in-home healthcare agency will provide regular quality assurance checks or ‘spot visits’ to check on the caregiver and make sure all is well in the home. 

Status reports and point of contact

A reputable in-home healthcare agency should provide you an easy-to-reach company contact to discuss any concerns. In addition, regular status reports should be provided by the healthcare company on a regular basis.   

Family involvement

The most important piece of advice I can give to families is to stay actively engaged in your loved ones care. It is key to be involved and keep tabs on what’s going on. 

Keep an eye on credit card statements, checking and saving account balances and other important financial documents. Have mail forwarded to your house so you can keep an eye on important business matters.

The need for in-home care will continue to be in demand, especially as the aging of America crests in 2030. Following these basic preventative steps will help keep your loved one safe and secure and protect against abuse and neglect.

Kurt A. Kazanowski, MS, RN, CHE is a seasoned health care executive with over three decades of experience.  Kurt is an authority in home care and hospice, and owner of a personal care home health company called Homewatch CareGivers, and a coaching and consulting company called Hospice Advisors. and 

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