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Elder Abuse

Abuse and neglect can cause suffering and threaten the health and well-being of older adults. Learn how to recognize the signs, report abuse and help prevent it.

Elder abuse means causing harm or risk of harm to an elderly person. It can take many forms, from physical abuse to neglect, theft or isolation. It can occur within a family, in a nursing home or hospital, or elsewhere in the community. It often goes unreported, partly because many of the victims are unable to communicate with authorities or others who could help.

Our eldercare counselors can help older adults who are at risk of abuse or fraud, and can assist caretakers who need to find reliable, safe help to care for their loved one.

Know the Signs

Vigilant family members, healthcare providers and others who have contact with the elderly are in the best position to spot elderly abuse and take steps to prevent or stop it. Signs that an older adult might be being abused or neglected include:

  • Bruises, burns or cuts.
  • Suspected dehydration or malnourishment.
  • Expressions of shame or fear.
  • Overmedication or sedation.
  • Poor personal hygiene.
  • Sudden bank account withdrawals or closings.

If you suspect an older adult is being abused, get in touch with adult protective services or other authorities in your area.

  • In Santa Clara County, call Adult Protective Services at 800-414-2002 or 408-975-4900.
  • If you’re concerned about an older person in a nursing home or other facility, contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program’s 24-hour crisis line at 800-231-4024. You can also call the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) at 800-474-1116.

Protect Against Crime and Fraud

Older adults are often the targets of crime, including robbery and assault. Internet and telephone scams, identity theft and other types of fraud are increasingly common and often focus on the elderly. Be aware and take steps to keep from being a victim.

To protect yourself from robbery or violence:

  • Keep doors and windows locked, whether you’re at home or away.
  • Know who’s at the door before you open it. Look through the peephole or window, and ask strangers for identification. If you feel uneasy, don't open your door.
  • Avoid keeping large amounts of money or jewelry at home.
  • Put irreplaceable documents in a safety deposit box.

To avoid scams and identity theft:

  • Say no to any telephone pitch — just hang up.
  • Don't give your credit card or bank account numbers to anyone who calls you. For instance, if the caller claims to be from the bank, hang up and call the bank to be sure.
  • Be on guard about hiring people who come door to door for home repair work. Ask for references and check them.
  • Shred or tear up credit card bills or anything that shows your personal information.
  • Don't respond to emails asking for personal information, such as bank account or credit card numbers.
  • Be wary when purchasing things online. Use only websites of trusted companies.
  • Use antivirus and antispyware software on your computer and keep it up to date.
  • Report any identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338, or visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

For more information and resources related to elder abuse and fraud, visit:

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