Would you recognise abuse?

Many people with care and support needs are well looked after and receive help when they need and want it. However sometimes people, particularly those who are older and frailer, or those who suffer from dementia or have communication problems, are more vulnerable.

Abuse or neglect can be difficult to spot but below are some of the signs that might suggest there is a problem.

Remember that you can make a difference and you can get professional advice when you think there is problem. Working together we can keep people who need help safe.

Find out more about how to spot signs of abuse or neglect.

New Safeguarding Leaflet

The Board Service User Reference Group brings together a group of adults with a special interest in safeguarding who help us increase awareness and understanding of what it means to safeguard a vulnerable adult in our communities. The group have designed a leaflet which is here for you to use to help us reach out to adults with care and support needs who might be at risk of abuse or neglect.

You can download the leaflet here or contact us to request copies at LSAB@wiltshire.gov.uk

The service users group is supported by Wiltshire Centre for Independent Living. If you would like to join the group contact Zoe Millington on 03001233442.

Are you an unpaid carer?

Importantly if you are caring for someone in Wiltshire you can find out more about how you can access help and support on the Your Care, Your Support Wiltshire website.

As a carer you may be looking for training to help you provide the best support to the person you care for. Carer Support Wiltshire coordinates a training network of organisations which work together to develop and deliver training to carers. You can access information about training and support on the Carer Support Wiltshire website.

The carers reference group is supported by Carers Support Wiltshire. If you would like to join the group contact Lindsey Millen on 01380 908041.


Frequent signs of abuse:

  • Unexplained or frequent injuries – that might be bruising, cuts, welts, burns, marks on a person’s body or neck, or significant loss of hair
  • Someone being reluctant to be alone with an individual or their behaviour to an individual in their lives changing dramatically
  • Unwillingness to see a GP, seek professional medical help or personal care when it’s needed
  • Low self-esteem – the victim may feel the abuse is their fault when it is not
  • Marked changes in someone’s behaviour. That might include uncooperative or aggressive behaviour or, instead, signs of distress, tearfulness or anger or withdrawal

Other signs of abuse might depend on what kind of abuse a person is suffering from.

Signs of physical abuse might include:

  • Unexplained falls
  • Signs that a person isn’t eating properly – they might have lost weight suddenly, have problems keeping warm, be feeling exhausted and frequently be feeling unwell

Domestic violence or abuse can be physical, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional. The signs might include:

  • Someone being verbally abused or humiliated in front of others
  • Damage in the home or to someone’s property
  • Isolation – not seeing friends and family
  • Limited access to money

Signs of sexual abuse may include:

  • Torn, stained or bloody clothing
  • Bleeding, pain or itching in the genital area or unusual difficulty in walking or sitting
  • Infections, unexplained genital discharge, or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Pregnancy when a woman isn’t able to consent to sexual intercourse
  • Uncharacteristic use of explicit sexual language or attitude to sex
  • Incontinence not related to any known medical problems
  • Self-harming

Signs of psychological or emotional abuse may include:

  • Insomnia
  • A change of appetite, significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Apparent false claims, by someone involved with the person

If someone is suffering financial or material abuse you might notice:

  • Missing personal possessions
  • Unexplained lack of money, inability to pay for things they usually do or withdrawal of money from accounts
  • Power of attorney or lasting power of attorney (LPA) being sought after the person has ceased to have mental capacity or failure to register an LPA after the person has ceased to have mental capacity to manage their finances
  • Someone who is meant to manage financial affairs being evasive or uncooperative
  • Someone showing an unusual interest in the money or possessions of of the person
  • Signs of financial hardship in cases where the person’s financial affairs are being managed by a court appointed deputy, attorney or LPA
  • Recent changes in deeds or title to property or rent arrears and eviction notices
  • A lack of clear financial accounts held by a care home or service
  • Failure to provide receipts for shopping or transactions carried out on behalf of the person
  • A person’s living conditions being poorer than their financial resources should allow
  • Unnecessary property repairs

If someone is suffering discriminatory abuse:

  • The person might appear withdrawn and isolated
  • Express anger, frustration, fear or anxiety
  • May not be receiving the support they are entitled to

If someone is being neglected the signs may be:

  • A dirty or unhygienic environment
  • Poor physical condition and/or personal hygiene
  • Pressure sores or ulcers
  • Malnutrition or unexplained weight loss
  • Untreated injuries and medical problems
  • Inconsistent or reluctant contact with medical and social care organisations
  • Accumulation of untaken medication
  • Uncharacteristic failure to engage in social interaction
  • Inappropriate or inadequate clothing

If someone is self-neglecting they may:

  • Have very poor personal hygiene
  • A very unkempt appearance
  • A lack of essential food, clothing or shelter and be malnourished or dehydrated
  • Live in squalid or unsanitary conditions
  • Be neglecting to look after their home or be hoarding
  • Collecting a large number of animals in inappropriate conditions
  • Be unable or unwilling to take medication or treat illness or injury

Find out more