Holiday Visits –Elder Abuse and Neglect Assessment

Holiday Visits –Elder Abuse and Neglect Assessment

By CareerSmart® Learning Contributor, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot

Your cookies are baked, cards sent, gifts wrapped, airline reservation booked, and rental car confirmed.  You are on your way “home” for the holidays and excited to connect with family that you only get to see once or twice a year.  Seeing our elderly family members presents us with opportunities to reconnect and reminisce, and also to observe and assess. You wonder what changes you might see….what holiday surprises might be waiting for you. 

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), one in ten older Americans is a victim of abuse or neglect, and no racial, cultural, or socioeconomic group is exempt.  Ensuring that your loved ones are aging with respect and dignity may involve asking a few questions and using your assessment skills.   

Physical abuse may be the first thing that comes to mind; however, elder abuse and neglect can have many faces. Financial abuse and exploitation, for example, accounts for an estimated $2.6 billion a year in losses for elders.  The Administration for Community Living estimates that only about one in five crimes of this type are discovered. 

Be observant to changes in your loved one’s physical and emotional condition.  According to NCEA, there are warning signs that should alert you to possible problems of abuse or neglect. If your loved one lives alone, look for indications of self-neglect.  A person’s inability to handle routine tasks may include overdue or unpaid bills, inadequate food in the house to prepare meals, or an unkempt appearance from failure to routinely bathe or manage laundry.  Your loved one may appear malnourished or dehydrated, or be under- or over-medicated from their inability to manage their prescriptions.  You may notice confusion, depression, or isolation; or, that your loved one is drinking more than usual or abusing drugs.

For loved ones who have caregivers at home, or live with someone else who assists them, red flag indicators may include signs of:

  • Physical abuse, such as unexplained bruises, cuts, burns or injuries;
  • Psychological or emotional abuse, such as isolation from friends, lack of access to a cane, walker, or telephone, or fear of the caregiver;
  • Financial exploitation or abuse, such as a new friend or neighbor that helps out but charges nothing or very little, changes in how money is managed, a discrepancy in how the person is living compared to their assets, having a caregiver that is financially dependent on your loved one, or financial solicitations or notices of “winnings”;
  • Neglect, such as malnourishment, dehydration, dirty appearance, unmanaged incontinence, pressure  injuries, too much or too little medication, or not receiving care for medical, dental or emotional issues.

Many resources are available is you are suspicious of self-neglect, or caregiver abuse or neglect.  The local Adult Protective Services office can be contacted for those loved ones living in the community.  The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program can be contacted for those living in a licensed care facility.  Telephone numbers for contacting either program, as well as other resources on elder abuse, can be located on The National Center on Elder Abuse website: Let’s keep our elderly love ones safe and sound for the holidays and throughout the year.

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National Center on Elder Abuse.  Home for the Holidays.  Retrieved from

2 Administration for Community Living (2017, June 15).  World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Retrieved from

October 21, 2020

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