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Red Flags & Risk Factors

Red Flags for Abuse

What to look for:

  • Sudden changes in the elder’s appearance: poor hygiene, dressed improperly for the weather, sunken eyes, bedsores, loss of weight.
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s personality; increased or unreasonable levels of anxiety, fearfulness and/or depression.
  • The elder becomes uncommunicative and unresponsive.
  • Sudden or swift decline in the health; malnourishment or sudden loss of weight.
  • Visible injury that has not been cared for, or cannot be explained with a realistic explanation.
  • A change in routine, no longer attending events or participating in events enjoyed in the past.
  • Social isolation/ not allowed to visit alone. Sudden loss of ability to meet financial obligations.
  • Going without things the elder needs or has always had in the past.
  • The elder states that they have had conflicts or problems with their caregiver and/or they use coded disclosures.

National Center on Elder Abuse: Red Flags of Abuse

Common risk factors1 are:

  • The victim has dementia.
  • The perpetrator and/or the victim has mental health and/or substance abuse issues
  • Social isolation
  • Poor physical health, which increases vulnerability and thereby may increase risk

1 Administration on Aging. (2012). How to Answer Those Tough Questions about Elder Abuse. Retrieved from: