According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elders with dementia are thought to be at a greater risk of abuse and neglect than those of the general elderly population. Elder abuse, the center notes, is one of the most overlooked public health hazards in the United States.

There are various types of abuse. Physical abuse results in injury or pain (hitting, pinching, shoving, pulling hair, etc.).

Emotional abuse includes isolation, intimidation, harassment or threats and ridicule.

Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual activity with a person whose capacity to consent or resist is limited.

Neglect is abusive in that the caregiver can withhold or not assure the affected person with the necessary care or other support services.

Other forms of abuse include exploitation — misuse of someone's money, services or property — or extortion, which involves taking something of value from someone by force, threat or intimidation or abuse of legal or official authority.

The types of abuse most reported in the U.S. by caregivers of people with dementia are verbal abuse, physical abuse and neglect.

The NCEA reports that 60 percent of caregivers had been verbally abusive to the person for whom they care. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of caregivers reported actions that were physically abusive and 14 percent of caregivers reported being neglectful in their care.

Alarmingly, 20 percent of caregivers expressed fears that they would become violent while caring for the person with Alzheimer's or dementia. The caregiver's anxiety, depression, perceived burden, emotional status and social contacts factored into characteristics associated with the abuse of people with dementia by their caregivers

It is important to recognize signs of abuse, such as bruising or skin discoloration, burns or cuts, unsanitary surroundings, restricted movement (being locked in), withdrawal, weight loss or use of a person's money or resources by someone else. 

In Louisiana, anyone reporting abuse and neglect is immune from civil and criminal liability if he or she acted in good faith. Adult Protective Services/Elderly Protective Services investigates reports and arranges for service to protect those who are vulnerable and at risk of abuse. Call (800) 898-4910. Additionally, abuse cases involving someone in licensed settings, such as nursing or group homes, should be reported to the Department of Health/ Health Standards Section at (888) 810-1819.

Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.