Changes in Behavior
As we mentioned with the last sign, it's pretty typical for an elder with a caregiver to get angry and upset over losing independence. If your formerly cheerful and upbeat grandmother suddenly becomes negative and moody, though, it may signify more than sadness over her declining health.
Many elders in abusive situations are ashamed and don't want anyone to know what's going on. An abusive caregiver may make his or her charge feel stupid and worthless, convincing the person that he or she is somehow to blame for the abuse. Especially if the caregiver is a friend or child, the abused elder may not want to "tell" on him or her -- it's hard to admit that a loved one is capable of treating you so badly. If the elder is mentally incapacitated in some way, the situation is even more complicated.
So, how can you tell when this kind of abuse is going on? To avoid discussing the problem, the elderly person may stop talking to you or change the subject when you do talk. He or she may also stop participating in favorite activities and become withdrawn. Some elders who are emotionally or physically abused start to exhibit behaviors that at first appear to be symptoms of dementia, such as talking to themselves, rocking, or exhibiting a new physical tic, such as sucking their teeth.
So far, the signs of elder abuse mentioned are more difficult to spot and can sometimes be easily missed or explained away. We'll now look at some more obvious signs, starting with a lack of basic care, like a clean environment and cleanliness.