Detecting Elder Abuse
For years, Maine has been the oldest state in the nation. Our median age has risen to 44.9. About 21.2% of the state population is 65 or older. Elder abuse is prevalent and especially difficult to detect because these individuals often are reluctant or unable to report abuse, whether financial or physical.
Elderly individuals may excuse abuse at the hands of a beloved family member. They may fear retaliation if they are dependent on their abuser. They may lack the physical or cognitive ability to make a report. Most often, elder abuse is committed by family members. Other common perpetrators include friends, professional caregivers, and strangers perpetrating scams.
How to Detect Elder Abuse
How can you detect elder abuse and protect your loved ones? First, know the risk factors. Lack of consistent social support, lack of a spouse or partner, functional impairment, poor physical health, dementia, low income, and history of trauma have been associated with a greater risk of exploitation. Then, recognize the signs.
Signs of Neglect
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Deteriorating hygiene (e.g., dirty clothes, lack of bathing, rashes, bedsores).
- Missing or non-functioning medical aids (e.g., dentures, eyeglasses, medications).
- Inadequate facilities at home (e.g., heat, plumbing, power).
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Unexplained bruises, abrasions, broken bones, or burns.
- Reluctance to seek medical attention for injuries.
- Offering implausible explanations for the source of injuries.
Signs of Financial Exploitation
- Unpaid bills, threats of eviction, or missing financial statements.
- Unexplained transactions or missing assets.
- Changes to estate planning documents like wills or powers of attorney.
In any abusive situation, you also may observe your loved one losing interest in hobbies or withdrawing from family and friends.
What Can I Do?
To help prevent elder abuse, stay actively involved in your loved one’s life. Visit, call, and become a resource that your loved one expects in their day-to-day life. Consistent involvement allows you to watch for the signs of elder abuse in a non-intrusive, respectful way. The presence of a watchful eye may deter others from exploitative conduct.
If you suspect an elderly loved one is experiencing physical abuse or financial exploitation, make a report. The Maine Office of the Attorney General has an assigned investigator tasked with facilitating the prevention, reporting, investigation, and prosecution of elder abuse cases.
To make a report, call:
- Nationwide, 24-hour, toll-free: 1-800-624-8404
- TTY during business hours: 1-800-624-8404
- In-state, after-hours TTY: 1-800-963-9490
- Out-of-state, after-hours TTY: 207-287-3492
If you suspect your loved one is experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a facility licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services, make a report.
- Statewide, toll-free: 1-800-383-2441
- Local: 207-287-9308
- TTY: 1-800-606-0215
Rudman Winchell has prepared these materials for educational purposes only. They are not legal advice. The transmission of this information to you is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking more specific counseling.