The prevalence of elder abuse


Every month of the year seems to have a theme and for June it is Elder Abuse Awareness. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Day but the whole month offers the opportunity to learn more about this sad occurrence.

How is elder abuse defined?

According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, a venerable adult is defined as follows:

  • A person who is 60 years of age or older who has the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for himself or herself; or
  • Found incapacitated under chapter 11.88 RCW; or
  • Who has a developmental disability as defined under RCW 71A.10.020; or
  • Admitted to any facility; or
  • Receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under chapter 70.127 RCW; or
  • Receiving services from an individual provider; or
  • Who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under chapter 74.39 RCW.

Prevalence of elder abuse

At least 10% of adults age 60 and older will experience some form of elder abuse each year, with some older adults simultaneously experiencing more than one type of abuse.

Statistics show that the number one form of elder abuse is financial, followed by caregiver psychological, physical, neglect and sexual abuse.

Examples of elder abuse can range from depletion of bank accounts to refusal to allow or provide the use of in-home heat or air conditioning, to constant berating an elder for things they can no longer do.

One of the hardest to confirm is abuse by family members. Seniors are often too ashamed to admit the abuse is taking place. Another example of unreported abuse is that of in-home professional caregivers. Seniors often refuse to report financial or other forms of abuse for fear they will lose their caregiver and therefore their independence.

The consequences of elder abuse

The trauma of elder abuse may result in health issues like deterioration in health, hospitalization and increased mortality, clinical issues like depression and suicide, social issues like disrupted relationships, and financial loss, all leading to diminished independence and quality of life.

How to report adult abuse:

If you suspect a family member, friend or neighbor is suffering from some form of abuse you can take the following steps to file a report.

Anyone can report suspected elder abuse. Just call 877-734-6277 or complete this online form

Adult Protection (APS) Intake Specialists will gather information to begin the investigative process.

APS reviews each intake report to determine if it has jurisdiction; if so, it assigns an investigation timeframe. Investigations include thorough interviews, observations, record reviews and coordination with law enforcement and other agencies as needed.

APS works with community partners to offer protective services, such as emergency shelter, food, medical care, personal assistance, counseling and more.

Adult Protective Services does not have the authority to:

  • Remove a client against his or her own will
  • Detain or arrest an individual
  • Act as guardianship services
  • Act as emergency response (such as law enforcement or EMT)
  • Force people to accept service

They can and do, as needed, report the alleged abuser to law enforcement, help get an emergency protective order or an injunction to allow access to the alleged victim or referral for legal assistance. In extreme cases, APS may work with the Attorney General’s office to appoint a guardian.

For more information on how or when to report suspected elder abuse go to

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia. Contact her at or post your comment below.


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  • Drutty

    A sad topic but needs to be discussed. Thanks for the info. By the way, you look dyno-mite! Great new image!

    Friday, June 7 Report this