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Physical Effects of Elder Abuse

By Kimberly Thomas ; Updated June 13, 2017

Though severe cases of elder abuse exist, more often the abuse is subtle, making it hard to distinguish interpersonal stress from external abuse and neglect, according to the American Psychological Association. Elderly persons most vulnerable to abuse and neglect are frail, terminally ill, and mentally and physically impaired. In addition, victims of elder abuse are usually abused by members of their immediate families, other household members and hired caregivers. Here are some signs to look for if you suspect an elderly person has been abused.

Physical Markings

The physical effects of elder abuse stem from the infliction of physical, emotional and/or psychological trauma. Most often, physical markings of elder abuse are presented in forms of bruising or grip marks around the arms, legs or neck; sunken eyes; extreme weight loss; bed sores; and broken bones. Such physical marks generally come from the abuser hitting, beating, pushing, neglecting to feed, burning, undermedicating, excessive restraining or biting the abused.

Elders who are sexually abused may also have vaginal or anal bleeding, bruised breasts and venereal diseases or vaginal infections.


Elder abuse also impacts the language of the abused. The effects of this abuse are uncommunicative and unresponsive coping mechanisms, dismissive attitude or statements about injuries, and inability to verbalize or explain repeated injuries. When elders are abused, such signs as trembling, clinging and cowering are present. The repercussions of these effects present challenges for interventions. The abused are to afraid to speak up or have difficulty verbalizing what has happened.

Unexplained Harm

Repeated unexplained injuries are the most prominent signs that an elder may be being abused. Combinations of old and new bruises are not only alarming signals of abuse and neglect but also place the elderly victim at risk of internal injuries like internal bleeding and torn ligaments. This is often followed with frequent pain and suffering.

Elder abuse can cause physical effects that disable the person from full recovery or from seeking treatment. Untreated physical effects may have an even greater impact and can even result in death.

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