Recognizing Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation

Many vulnerable adults are abused in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, and even in facilities responsible for their care. If you suspect that a person is at risk from a neglectful or overwhelmed caregiver, or being preyed upon financially, it’s important to speak up. Learn about the warning signs of abuse, what the risk factors are, and how you can prevent and report the problem.

What is Abuse?

Abuse is defined by the statutes as the willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation of services (by a caretaker), which are necessary to maintain the disabled adult's mental/physical health.  Some indicators are:
  • bed sores
  • bruises (in various stages of healing) on upper arms (from shaking), around wrists or ankles (from being tied down), in shapes similar to objects (ropes, belts, hands), inside of thighs or arms
  • burns
  • confusion or disorientation
  • depression
  • extreme mood changes
  • fractions and dislocations
  • inappropriate clothing for weather
  • injuries to the head or scalp
  • lacerations and abrasions
  • low self esteem
  • overly anxious or withdrawn behavior
  • pain, itching, bleeding, or bruising in the genital area
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • suicidal behavior
  • weight loss
  • willful confinement in a dangerous environment

What is Neglect?

Neglect is defined by the statutes as the inability of a disabled adult to provide the services which are necessary to maintain mental/physical health (self-neglect) and who is not receiving services from his caretaker (caretaker neglect).  Some indicators are:


  • aimless wandering or getting lost
  • dehydration
  • elder left alone and deprived of stimulation and affection
  • forgetfulness that causes dangerous situations (leaving stove or gas on)
  • frequent accidents (falling, driving mishaps, starting fires)
  • living in unsafe dwelling
  • malnutrition
  • signs of overmedication, under medication, and/or misuse of medication
  • sudden weight loss
  • unable to cook, shop for food, bathe, toilet, or dress appropriately

Caretaker Neglect

Caretaker neglect is indicated by a failure to manage or provide:

  • adequate food, shelter, clothing
  • appropriate supervision
  • medical needs
  • resources to meet needs
  • safe environment

What is Exploitation?

Exploitation is defined by the statutes as the improper use of a disabled adult or his resources for another's profit or advantage.  Some indicators are:
  • excessive payments for services
  • failure to pay for essential services
  • inappropriate sexual activity (exploitation of person)
  • transfers of assets through deceit or coercion
  • unexplained withdrawal of money from bank accounts