• She hit me… it must be something I did.
  • They took my money… maybe they think I said it was ok?
  • My son was supposed to take care of me but he left me alone and in need… maybe I made him angry?

1 in 10 older adults in the United States experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation, but it’s estimated that only 1 in 24 abuse and neglect cases and only 1 in 44 financial exploitation cases are reported.

Cases go unreported for a variety of reasons. Learning those reasons will help us educate ourselves and others so that more cases will be reported, ending further abuse and financial loss.

Older adults are often fearful that if they report abuse they will lose their independence, lose their caregiver, or face retribution. One common form of elder abuse is emotional, which may include threats or intimidation. One of the red flags is a caretaker who is reluctant to allow the senior to spend time alone with visiting family or friends.

Almost 60% of abuse and neglect cases involve a family member or friend as the abuser; the number jumps to 85.5% for financial exploitation cases. Those who are being abused or exploited by a family member may not speak up for fear of bringing shame to the family or causing problems within the family dynamic.

Victims of abuse and exploitation may feel a sense of shame that they were unable to defend themselves or that someone took advantage of them.

Many family members, friends, or even nursing facility staff don’t know how to identify the signs of possible abuse or what they should do if they have reason to believe that an older adult is being abused. Signs of abuse and neglect can be mistakenly attributed to the aging process or to symptoms of medical conditions. For types of abuse and common warning signs, click here.

If you are experiencing or suspect abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, it’s important to report the abuse by calling Adult Protective Services (APS) at 855-444-3911. Someone is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take the report, which can be done anonymously. The report is then sent to the local APS office to be investigated. In Muskegon, Oceana, and Ottawa counties, the SafeSeniors partners work with APS to provide support to the victim and assistance with the investigation. In an emergency situation, call 9-1-1.