Elder abuse—in all of its forms—is an outrage against humanity.
Fighting Elder Abuse, 2014
Each year hundreds of thousands of older people are abused, neglected, and exploited. Many victims are people who are frail and vulnerable and cannot help themselves. They often depend on others to meet their most basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men and may be family members, friends, or “trusted others” (AOA, 2016b).
Elder abuse is known to be widespread throughout the United States and the world but because it is largely hidden it is under-reported. Although estimates vary widely, experts believe that nearly 85% of elder abuse cases go unreported and 40% of all elder abuse involves some form of financial exploitation by caretakers, guardians/conservators, or attorneys (Abramson, 2003).
There are many reasons why victims do not report the abuse, including lack of confidence, a history of abuse, fear of retaliation by the abuser, cultural beliefs, embarrassment, and shame. For example, people who have never been self-confident are not likely to ask for help when they become dependent. Those who have been abused or neglected their entire lives expect maltreatment to continue, do not think someone would want to help, and often reject help when it is offered.
Many older adults are ashamed to report abuse or are afraid a report will get back to the caregiver and the abuse will get worse. If you think someone is being abused—physically, emotionally, or financially—talk to the person alone and offer to get help from adult protective services.
In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Legislatures in all fifty states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws. Laws and definitions of terms vary considerably from one state to another, but broadly defined, abuse may be:
While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, tell-tale signs of physical, emotional, financial, verbal, or sexual abuse, neglect, or mistreatment include:
Texas Adult Protective Services offers some additional perspective on signs of abuse or neglect of the elderly or people with disabilities:
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services maintains a central place for reporting:
Texas law says anyone who thinks a child, or person 65 years or older, or an adult with disabilities is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report it to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
A person who reports abuse in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability. The Department keeps the name of the person making the report confidential. Anyone who does not report suspected abuse can be held liable for a misdemeanor or felony.
By phone: 1-800-252-5400
Online: Texas Abuse Hotline https://www.txabusehotline.org/
Relay Service: 7-1-1 or 800-735-2989 (tell the agent to call the abuse hotline)
Emergency: 911 or local law enforcement
Statewide Intake (SWI) operates the Texas Abuse Hotline. It takes reports and any that meet the legal definition of abuse, neglect or exploitation are prioritized and assigned to the appropriate program for investigation. The program operates around-the-clock every day of the year (DFPS, 2015).
Adult Protective Services is the program charged with:
In 2015 APS received 110,277 reports of alleged abuse/neglect in home, and 12,952 reports for facilities. This was up from 103,019 and 12,314 respectively for 2014, and up dramatically from 2013 when the figures were 87,257 and 11,663 respectively (DFPS, 2013–2015).
While reports of alleged abuse are made by many different people and entities, overall, medical personnel are consistently the largest source of reports of abuse/neglect at 18-19%. In elder and disabled adult abuse the percentage in 2015 was 21.8%, with relatives, community agencies, and victims accounting for another 41.9% of reports.