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
  • weight loss
  • willful confinement in a dangerous environment
  • inappropriate clothing for weather
  • fractures and dislocations
  • lacerations and abrasions
  • burns
  • injuries to the head, scalp
  • 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.
  • Pain, itching, bleeding or bruising in the genital area
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • low self esteem
  • overly anxious or withdrawn
  • extreme mood changes
  • depression
  • suicidal behavior
  • confusion or disorientation

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:

Self Neglect

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

Caretaker Neglect


  • failure to manage resources to meet needs
  • failure to provide for medical needs
  • failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing
  • failure to provide appropriate supervision
  • failure to provide 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:
inappropriate sexual activity (exploitation of person)
excessive payments for services
unexplained withdrawal of money from bank accounts
failure to pay for essential services
transfers of assets through deceit or coercion