Senior citizens have earned their dignity and the ability to enjoy their golden years to their fullest potential. Florida, the U.S. state with the highest numbers of seniors and retirees, is host to millions doing just that.

Elderly people and those who care for them, however, must remain vigilant against mistreatment by family members, caretakers and others in their lives. Elder abuse, together with neglect and exploitation, can involve a variety of crimes and breaches of trust.

Statistics are difficult to gather on elder abuse. It is reported that one in ten people above age 60 who live at home have experienced abusive behavior, and there are occasionally reports of abuse in nursing homes.

However, the nature of elder abuse — trust between patient and caretaker, mental illnesses and feelings of humiliation — lead many cases to go unreported. For every known case, there may be 23 cases of elder abuse that are not known.

It is often best to approach the possibility of elder abuse if one or several of its many symptoms are observed. These includes physical, psychological and material effects.

Unexplained injuries may be a result of elder abuse, as well as signs of neglect such as malnutrition or skin problems. Problems with sleep and susceptibility to illness are also connected to abuse.

Anxiety is often expressed by abuse victims, as well as the appearance of helplessness or post-traumatic stress. Unusual payments or missing money could suggest an elder’s funds or property are being mishandled.

Senior citizens have rights and protections against every type of elder abuse. An experienced attorney can help you if you believe you or someone you love has experienced physical or mental abuse.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Elder Abuse: Consequences,” accessed July 21, 2017