Elder Abuse Prevention

Elder abuse takes many forms, and may be done by a caregiver or trusted individual with the result of causing harm to a vulnerable elder.  According to the Administration on Aging (AoA), forms of elder abuse may include financial exploitation, physical abuse, neglect by a caregiver, or self-neglect by an older adult, and/or emotional abuse.

Financial exploitation can appear as the lack of affordable amenities and comforts in the elder's home when a caregiver has control of an elder's money but fails to provide for the elder's needs; it can appear as excessive gifts or financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship; it can also appear as signed property transfers (power of attorney, or a will, for example) that the older adults has signed for, but is unable to comprehend what the transaction means.

Physical abuse can appear as unexplained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, or burns.  It can also appear as unexplained sexually transmitted disease.

Neglect can appear as the lack of basic hygiene or appropriate clothing, or lack of food or medical aids; it could be a person confined to their bed who is left without care who may have untreated bed sores or pressure ulcers; it could be a person with dementia who is left unsupervised; it could show up as a home that is dirty or in disrepair, or that lacks adequate basics such as electricity, plumbing, heating or cooling, and appliances.

Emotional abuse is a little harder to detect.  It could show up as unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, or unexplained changes in alertness.  It could also be when a caregiver isolates the elder by not allowing anyone to come into the home or to speak with the elder; and when a caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, or uncaring.

Elder abuse could happen to anyone whether they live at home, in assisted living or nursing facilities, or in hospitals.  It can affect elders of any socioeconomic group, culture, or race.

An estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation.  This number is probably low since experts estimate that only one in five cases is reported.  For more information about elder abuse and ways to detect and prevent it, see the the Administration on Aging website:  www.aoa.gov and click on Elder Rights Protection.

Since only one in five cases of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation is reported, it is important to know about reporting procedures.  Both the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and local Adult Protective Services can look into situations where abuse and/or neglect is suspected.  To contact the  Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, please call the intake line at 703-324-5861 and an Ombudsman will call you back.

Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of adults 60 years of age or older, and incapacitated adults age 18 or older.  Once a valid report is received, an APS worker will assess the situation for service needs and determine whether the adult in question needs protective services.  If protective services are needed and accepted by the individual, local APS workers may arrange for a variety of services, depending on availability, such as home-based care, housing, social and legal services to stop the mistreatment or prevent further mistreatment.

Anyone can report a suspected incident of abuse, neglect, or exploitation by making a phone call.  Some potential reporters worry about their identity being revealed to the adult in question, but state law requires that the identity of people who report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation be kept strictly confidential.  Some people, known as mandated reporters, are required by law to immediately report suspected abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  Reports can also be made anonymous.

To make a report to Adult Protective Services, call the county hotline in which the adult resides:

  • Arlington County APS:  703-228-1350; TTY 703-228-1788
  • City of Alexandria APS:  703-746-5778 or  1-800-552-7096
  • Fairfax County APS:  703-324-7450; TTY 711
  • Loudoun County APS:  703-777-0353, TTY 711

There is also a Virginia toll-free hotline to report abuse: 1-888-832-3858, TTY 711


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