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What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Teresa Fair-Field, OTD, OTR/L

June 4, 2021



What are the signs of elder abuse?


When working with the elderly, it is important that you pay attention to signs and symptoms of elder abuse. Seniors who are experiencing some form of abuse will likely present as withdrawn and you may notice that they isolate themselves. In addition, you may notice sudden depression. If the withdrawal, isolation, and depression are sudden and unexplained, I encourage you to assess further. 

Other signs of elder abuse include but are not limited to abrupt and unexplainable changes in financial status, poor hygiene, bedsores, or evidence that the senior is not being properly moved or that the senior is sitting or lying in the same spot continuously. 

Additional signs of elder abuse include, but are not limited to, unexplained weight loss, noncompliance with a medical treatment regimen especially as it relates to missing medical appointments or not taking medications as prescribed or at all, and unexplained bruises, broken bones, and overall injuries. 


This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the webinar, Suicide and Self-Harm in the Elderly, presented by Teresa Fair-Field, OTD OTR/L.

teresa fair field

Teresa Fair-Field, OTD, OTR/L

Teresa Fair-Field graduated from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon with a Bachelor of Science in 1993, and from Chatham University with a post-professional doctorate in Occupational Therapy in 2016.  She has worked through the lifespan including early intervention and pediatrics,  adult neuro, elder health, and end of life care.  She works full time in academic and clinical education.  Her primary role is on the Select Rehabilitation education team.

Related Courses

Suicide and Self-Harm in the Elderly
Presented by Teresa Fair-Field, OTD, OTR/L


Teresa Fair-Field, OTD, OTR/L
Course: #1028Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'easy to utilize'   Read Reviews
This course will discuss the signs that go beyond depression to reveal active suicidal or self-harm risk. We will address the prevalence of suicidality in long-term care settings, elevated risks in care transitions, steps to improve the comfort and ability to conduct effective interviews and risk assessments, the Baby Boomer cohort effect, and provide clinical tips and resources.

Sleep: The Challenge of Aging
Presented by Teresa Fair-Field, OTD, OTR/L


Teresa Fair-Field, OTD, OTR/L
Course: #104Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Speaker was knowledgeable and was an effective speaker'   Read Reviews
Do we accept that disrupted sleep is ‘normal’ in the elderly? This course will discuss specific sleep challenges in the elderly as well as appropriate responses and treatment options. In addition, there will be specific discussion on residential care environments and how we can improve these environments for sleep promotion.

Understanding Intimate Partner Violence: What it is, how to assess for it, and how to intervene
Presented by Kim Anderson, PhD, MSSW, LCSW, Katrinna M. Matthews, DSW, MEd, LAPSW


Kim Anderson, PhD, MSSW, LCSWKatrinna M. Matthews, DSW, MEd, LAPSW
Course: #1206Level: Intermediate2.5 Hours
  'Very clear and concise'   Read Reviews
This two part course is designed to provide an overview of intimate partner violence (IPV), its causes, the prevalence, and its impact on victims as well as children. In addition, this course explores elder abuse and discusses social work assessment for IPV and elder abuse and intervention strategies.

Elder Abuse and Child Abuse: Know the Signs and Your Role
Presented by Kathleen Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L


Kathleen Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L
Course: #1221Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'presenter was very well informed'   Read Reviews
Elder abuse and neglect and child abuse and neglect are harsh realities. This course will identify the physical, clinical, and behavioral indicators of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse needed to identify and report to appropriate agencies. Participants will gain an improved awareness of warning signs of abuse, the clinician's role in reporting abuse, and the steps for reporting abuse and getting proper assistance.

Intimate Partner Violence: The Basics
Presented by Katrinna M. Matthews, DSW, MEd, LAPSW


Katrinna M. Matthews, DSW, MEd, LAPSW
Course: #1001Level: Introductory1.5 Hour
  'The speaker was good'   Read Reviews
This course defines Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and reviews how IPV manifests in relationships and how social workers should assess for IPV and intervene with both victims and perpetrators. This course also addresses elder abuse and assessing and intervening with elder abuse.