How Do You Recognize the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Q and A with Elaine Video Series #5

What do you do if you suspect an elderly person is being abused?

Answering this question seems simple on the surface, right? You would assume everyone would say, “Report it!” Actually, according to the National Council on Aging, one study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to the authorities.*

So why are people reluctant to get involved? Sometimes they don’t want to report it because they haven’t personally witnessed anything, and they aren’t sure if the person actually is being abused.

People may also be afraid of the consequences if they report abuse, especially if a family member is involved. They may not want to get the police involved. Or perhaps they are afraid of causing a massive disruption in the family. Maybe a daughter is caring for Mom, and her siblings suspect she is using their mother’s money for her own purposes rather than their mom ’s care. They may be afraid that if they accuse the sister, she might walk out and leave them with the entire responsibility of taking care of Mom.

Sometimes people don’t report abuse because they don’t know who to call. So that you know, here are four ways you can report a suspected case of abuse:

  1. Call the police. If you suspect someone is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call 911.
  2. Call Adult Protective Services. If you think someone is being abused by a relative, neighbor, or friend, call the Adult Protective Services office in your area. You can find their number by Googling Adult Protective Services and entering your town and state.
  3. Call Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. They have people who are experts in this area, and they will refer you to a local agency that can help.
  4. Contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman. If you think someone in a long-term care facility is being abused, talk to the administrator first. If you feel like you aren’t getting an appropriate response, contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman. The people in this social services program are committed to making sure that residents in long-term care facilities receive proper care. They help resolve conflicts between facilities, residents, and their families, and if you lodge a complaint, someone will go into the facility, check it out, and help solve the problem. Google LTCombudsman.org and click on the map on the left-hand side of the page.

The thing to remember is that people who are elderly, frail, and unable to manage on their own, need advocates. If you suspect someone is being abused financially, emotionally, physically, or you think they may be suffering from social isolation or neglect, please contact someone who can help them and protect them from further harm.