Detecting Elder Abuse

For years, Maine has been the oldest state in the nation. Our median age has risen to 44.9, and 21.2 percent of the state population is 65 or older. The exploitation of older Mainers 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, or they may lack the physical or cognitive ability to make a report. Most often, elder abuse is committed by family members, but 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

  1. Unexplained weight loss.
  2. Deteriorating hygiene (e.g., dirty clothes, lack of bathing, rashes, bedsores).
  3. Missing or non-functioning medical aids (e.g., dentures, eyeglasses, medications).
  4. Inadequate facilities at home (e.g., heat, plumbing, power).

Signs of Physical Abuse

  1. Unexplained bruises, abrasions, broken bones, or burns.
  2. Reluctance to seek medical attention for injuries.
  3. Offering implausible explanations for the source of injuries.

Signs of Financial Exploitation

  1. Unpaid bills, threats of eviction, or missing financial statements.
  2. Unexplained transactions or missing assets.
  3. 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 their 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 will give you an opportunity to watch for the signs of elder abuse in a non-intrusive and respectful way, and 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
  • TTY (in-state, after hours): 1-800-963-9490
  • TTY (out-of-state, after hours): 1-207-287-3492

If you suspect your loved one is experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a facility licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services, call:

  • Statewide, toll-free: 1-800-383-2441
  • Local: 1-207-287-9308
  • TTY: 1-800-606-0215


Tracy B. Collins, Esq
Rudman Winchell


Disclaimer: These materials have been prepared by Rudman Winchell 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.