It is so very hard to understand how anyone could abuse an elderly person, and yet elder abuse happens all the time in Virginia. Sadly, neglect is an event bigger problem.

What is elder abuse? What is elder neglect?

Under Virginia law – Abuse” means (i) knowing and willful conduct that causes physical injury or pain or (ii) knowing and willful use of physical restraint, including confinement, as punishment, for convenience or as a substitute for treatment, except where such conduct or physical restraint, including confinement, is a part of care or treatment and is in furtherance of the health and safety of the incapacitated person.

“Neglect” means the knowing and willful failure by a responsible person to provide treatment, care, goods or services which results in injury to the health or endangers the safety of an incapacitated adult.

What are the signs of elder abuse?

An article in Geriatrics, published in 2004, described the following signs and symptoms of elder abuse or neglect:
– delay between injury and seeking medical attention
– unexplained bruises / fractures / lacerations
– inattention to nutrition / hygiene
– apathy or depression
– worsening dementia
– pressure ulcers
– multiple injuries
– lack of compliance with medical advice / regimen
– weight loss / dehydration

What do you do if you suspect elder abuse?

1. Call 911 – and make sure the victim gets medical attention;
2. Call your local Adult Protective Services office and file a complaint – each county has a liaison, often in your Department of Social Services.
3. Remove the individual from the abuse. Sometimes this requires moving to a different nursing home, but often it is more complicated and involves court involvement regarding guardians and caretakers.

Virginians, please don’t allow your loved one to be a victim of abuse or neglect. If you suspect they are not getting proper care, are being harmed by a care provider, another resident etc – ACT FAST.

Much better to protect someone such that you don’t have a lawsuit, then that person suffer…

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

Back to top