Signs of Abuse That Every Caregiver Should Monitor  

Sometimes you go through life and there are events that you witness, or even experience, that change you in ways you wouldn’t think possible. Sometimes these events leave you with those warm fuzzies that just makes you smile every time you think back to it. Other times, the memory is so heart wrenching, a lump forms in your throat.

I’ve worked in nursing homes for the majority of my life. Many of the people I’ve met (residents, family members, caregivers) were incredible people who I felt fortunate to get to know. There were a few people who endured things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I remember one particular resident who was a little difficult on her off days, but when she was in a good mood, she was the sweetest woman you’d ever meet. A few weeks went by and I noticed that she was not out and about like she normally would be. I asked a friend who worked the floor where she lived and my friend told me that the woman had been hospitalized because she had a grapefruit sized bed sore on her hip and it became infected. I was heartbroken. A few days went by and I learned she passed away.

I say this not to relive heartaches, but to inform people to look for signs of abuse whenever they are trusting someone to care for their loved ones, whether they’re an elderly parent, a disabled sibling, a beloved friend or a small child.

The Many Forms of Domestic Violence

Abuse comes in many forms. Most commonly, we think of abuse as what happens when one partner hurts their spouse. This form of abuse is called domestic abuse and it happens a lot more frequently than one would expect. In fact, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced some kind of domestic violence in their lifetime. What’s more harrowing is that of the women who have experienced domestic violence, 22.4% were victimized by an intimate partner between the ages of 11 and 17 years old.  

Domestic violence isn’t just about physical abuse. It can also include emotional (also known as psychological) abuse where someone plays mind games with their partner, tells them they’re worthless, and forces them to stop communicating with friends and family. In many instances, domestic violence can include sexual abuse that includes sexual assault and rape, as well as harassment, coercion, and even reproductive coercion (the victim is talked into not using the pill, removing an IUD, not wearing a condom, having an abortion).

Signs of Domestic Abuse:

  •         Exaggerated happiness
  •         When asking for advice, they question their own behavior or sanity
  •         Avoid eye contact when you ask what’s wrong
  •         Make excuses for their partner’s behavior/actions
  •         Do not keep appointments and do not give plausible reasons
  •         Seem like they are on the defensive all the time
  •         Losing interest in hobbies and friends they once enjoyed
  •         Shows sign of fear when partner is near
  •         They make up stories to explain injuries

Abuse Online

Did you know that cyberstalking and cyberbullying are also forms of domestic violence? More than 1 million women and 370,000 men are victims of cyberstalking. You may feel that this growing phenomenon is the result of social media and the candor at which some people share their lives on those platforms, but it is just another way for an abuser to take control away from someone – it doesn’t even have to be an intimate partner!

With cyber bullying, children often are harassed through digital mediums like social media, text messages, forums posts, and messages. Cyber bullying continues to be such a big problem because, as 81% of teens say, “bullying online is easier to get away with.” It’s so easy and so rampant that it causes 3 million children to miss school each month because of online bullying. The cyber bullying can be so cruel that it causes 20% of the victims of cyber bullying to commit suicide – 1 in 10 actually attempt it, and 4,300 succeed each year. The worst part of all of this? Only 10% of cyberbullying victims will report the abuse to an adult.

Signs Someone Is Being Cyberbullied or Cyberstalked:

  •         Shows signs of nervousness or fear when receiving a text message
  •         Does not want to go to school by playing sick often
  •         Unexplained anger or depression after being online
  •         Difficulty sleeping at night
  •         Unexplained changes in weight (either gain or loss)
  •         Withdrawing from real life friends and family

Elderly Abuse

Then, of course, we have elderly abuse. The elderly can be abused when they are in the care of a long-term care facility, a relative, or even in their own home. Elderly abuse consists of physical abuse and emotional abuse, but it can also include financial abuse and even neglect – as was the case with the woman from my story at the beginning of this article.

Fighting against abuse isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It is up to everyone to be vigilant and be aware of the signs of abuse, be it from members of the family, caregivers, or even other residents in a nursing home.

Signs of Elderly Abuse:

  •         Malnourished that is not directly related to an illness
  •         Poor hygiene
  •         Untreated bedsores
  •         Unexplained injuries that haven’t been cared for properly
  •         Cheeks are sunken in or eyes that show evidence of poor circulation
  •         Frequent trips to the doctor or admittance to the hospital
  •         Depression
  •         Hesitation to speak freely
  •         Confused or disoriented more than usual
  •         Experiencing unexplained anger, agitation, fear, or anxiety
  •         Withdrawing from activities and people they once enjoyed


It hurts knowing that someone you care about is being abused, and it hurts even more when you’ve seen the signs but you didn’t want to jump to conclusions or stick your nose in someone else’s business. Too often we are told to stay out of other people’s affairs and sometimes, minding your own business could cost someone their life.

Be one of the 200,000 phone calls that are placed to a domestic violence hotline. Tell someone if you are being harassed online. Call your local Adult Protective Services office if you see an elderly person being abused or neglected.

Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children. When she’s not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Written by Guest Author
The Caregiver Space accepts contributions from experts for The Caregiver's Toolbox and provides a platform for all caregivers in Caregiver Stories. Please read our author guidelines for more information and use our contact form to submit guest articles.

Related Articles

manic pixie dream world

manic pixie dream world

Rayne: Eliza, do you consider yourself mentally ill? Eliza: Rayne, at one time, I would have said I am extremely mentally ill. I no longer say that....

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.