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Alzheimer’s Abuse

Many cases of Alzheimer’s abuse go unreported and uncounted because victims are sometimes unable to communicate or tell anyone about the abuse. Even so, patients with Alzheimer’s are more likely to suffer abuse than other residents of a nursing home. This is because they are easier targets for aggressors and because they require more difficult care and attention than other patients.

Family members of a patient with Alzheimer’s should try to visit their loved one one a regular basis. They will be able to better observe the patient’s care and will be able take note of changes in mood, behavior, and health that may signal abuse or neglect.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia. While it often occurs in old age, there are also early onset forms of the disease. Patients with Alzheimer’s suffer from declining cognitive abilities, most notably memory impairment. The disease makes communication more difficult and as it progresses, the individual may also need help with daily activities. People suffering from Alzheimer’s often feel troubled and confused. Their inability to recall memories and their loss of short term memory sometimes causes them to feel depressed, anxious, and upset.

Vulnerability of Alzheimer’s Patients

Though most caregivers in nursing homes are doing their best to provide adequate care, there are some caregivers who actively take advantage and abuse the elderly patients. These types of aggressors typically focus on patients who are most vulnerable. Because of their memory impairment and inability to communicate, patients with Alzheimer’s are especially vulnerable to abuse. Aggressors may also target these patients because they are more easily confused, and so may not even realize that they are being ridiculed or abused.

Because of their medical condition, victims may not be able to remember the specific events of abuse and may only be able to remember feelings of anguish or anxiety. After patients have lost the ability to effectively communicate, it can be very difficult to identify the abuse and provide help. Learn more about Alzheimer’s abuse risks.

Indicators of Abuse

  • Bruising and cuts
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Rapid decline in health
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Agitation
  • Rapid development of Alzheimer’s
  • Withdrawal or depression
  • Sudden financial problems

Financial Abuse of People with Alzheimer’s

Financial Alzheimer’s abuse is a growing problem across America. Nursing home staff members sometimes takes advantage of their patients and begin to take money or high value items from them. Staff members may target patients with Alzheimer’s because they are more likely to forget about the theft or become confused about how much money they had. The risk of this abuse increases if the caregivers are struggling with financial problems or substance abuse.

Some indicators of financial Alzheimer’s abuse include:

  • Patient lending money to nursing staff
  • Unexplained use of the patient’s credit card
  • Charging excessive or unnecessary amounts for nursing home services
  • Changes in wills, deeds, and power of attorney
  • Alzheimer’s care facility abuse

Financial Abuse by Family Members

A recent study by the Alzheimer’s Society focused on the financial abuse committed by family members of people with Alzheimer’s. Because they have direct access to cash, bank accounts, and other assets, family members are at a high risk of engaging in abuse. Sometimes family members who have been caught stealing from the person with Alzheimer’s will claim that they were taking their inheritance early, or getting compensation for their care.

In the study, 15% of the people with Alzheimer’s abuse reported that they were victims of financial abuse. Most caregivers also reported that the Alzheimer’s patient was unfairly targeted by door-to-door salespeople and telemarketers.


Fulmer, T., G. Paveza, and C. Vandeweerd. “Abuse and neglect in older adults with Alzheimer.” PubMed Central. 2006. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16492453>.

Southern, Alice. “Mistreatment and abuse of people with dementia.” Alzheimer’s Society. London: 2013. <http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=422>.

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