EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and a local police department is seeking to educate people about one form of domestic violence.

Elder abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, is defined as “abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older individual by another person or entity who has a trust-based relationship with the older adult, or any harm that occurs because an older person is targeted by a stranger based on their age or disability.”

Elder abuse can take many forms, whether it’s at the hands of family members, caregivers, health care providers, friends, or even strangers. It can include the following:

Physical Abuse: When bodily harm is inflicted on another individual such as hitting, pushing, slapping, or anything that can lead to injury.

Emotional Abuse: Also known as psychological abuse, this can occur when one uses hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or ignoring an elderly adult.

Neglect: When a caregiver ignores an elderly person’s physical, emotional and social needs. Neglect can also include withholding food, medication, or access to health care.

Abandonment: When an elderly person is in need of care, but left alone to take care for themselves.

Sexual Abuse: Forcing an elderly individual to watch or be part of sexual acts. Sexual harassment is also a form of abuse.

Financial Abuse: When money or belongings are stolen from an elderly person, whether it’s forging checks, taking retirement/social security benefits, or even using credit cards or bank accounts without permission. Other forms of this abuse include changing names on wills, bank accounts, life insurance policies, or other official documents without permission.

Taunton police shared several warning signs of elderly abuse to watch out for:

  • Avoids activities that bring enjoyment
  • Physically looks messy
  • Has sleeping issues
  • Loses weight for no reason
  • Becomes withdrawn or acts agitated
  • Has unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, or scars
  • Has broken glasses/frames
  • Develops bed sores
  • Lacks medical aids (walkers, glasses, dentures, hearing aids, etc.)
  • Receives eviction notice for unpaid rent
  • Has hazardous, unsafe, or unclean living conditions
  • Displays signs of insufficient care or unpaid bills

Police say elder abuse cases often require intervention, which is why it’s important to keep an eye out for the warning signs. The best way to approach the situation, according to police, is to try to communicate with the elder adult.

If you believe someone may be a victim of abuse, you can file a report online with the Massachusetts Adult Protective Services or call 800-922-2275.