Elder Abuse Awareness

By: Betsy Pownall

Elder abuse (age 65 and older) includes physical, emotional, sexual harm, as well as financial exploitation and neglect by others, typically by their care providers. More than half a million reports are made in the United States, with millions of cases going unreported.

Elder abuse generally occurs in the senior’s home or institutional setting. If you suspect an elderly person is at risk from neglect, physical or emotional abuse, or being financially preyed upon by someone, it is important to speak up. Here is a list of warning signs, risk factors, and how to report a problem.

Warning Signs: 

  1. Signs of physical aggression such as black eyes, bruising, and physical injury.
  2. Emotional abuse by care providers such as yelling, name-calling, ridicule, blaming, ignoring, etc.
  3. Financial exploitation such as significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts, sudden change in financial condition, items or cash missing from the senior’s household, changes in will, power of attorney, titles and policies, suspicious ATM withdrawals, additional names added to credit cards.
  4. Healthcare fraud such as duplicate billing, evidence of over or under-medication, evidence of inadequate care after medical bills are paid in full, and problems with care facilities (poorly trained staff, crowding, insufficiently staffed, inadequate answers to questions).

Risk Factors:

  1. Depression, substance abuse, burn-out, and isolation on the part of the caregiver.
  2. Intensity of elderly person’s illness or dementia.
  3. Social isolation — elder and caregiver are alone, together, most of the time.
  4. Elder’s history as an abusive parent or spouse, history of domestic violence.
  5. Elder’s own use of verbal or physical aggression

Prevention Tips for the Caregiver:

  1. Take care of yourself and get adequate rest.
  2. Seek help for depression and social isolation.
  3. Seek help for anger management.
  4. Get respite care for the elderly.

Prevention Tips for the Neighbor:

  1. Call and visit, check in with the elders.
  2. Offer to give the care provider a break.
  3. Monitor medications to make sure the amounts taken correspond with prescription.
  4. Check bank accounts and credit card statements to check on potential unauthorized transactions.
  5. Educate yourself around signs of abuse and neglect and report anything suspicious.


  1. If you are a senior experiencing abuse, tell at least one person you trust: your doctor, a friend, a family member. Or call the helplines listed below.
  2. If you witness abuse of an elder, make a report, and continue making reports as you witness abuse. The more information you provide the better chance the elderly person will get the help they need.
  3. Don’t confront the abuse yourself, talk with family members, and make reports. The earlier you intervene, the better the outcome may be.


United States: 1-800-677-1116 (Eldercare Locator) or find local resources at the National Center on Elder Abuse.

State of Oregon: 855-503-SAFE (7233) or 911 if you need immediate emergency assistance

Portland area: Multnomah County Aging & Disability Services: 503-988-4450; 3646 after hours

Eugene/Springfield/Lane County: Lane County Abuse Reporting & Adult Protective Services: 541-682-4140 or toll free 800-441-4038

Oregon Ombudsman: The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a state agency that serves long-term care facility residents (assisted living, memory care, etc)  through complaint investigation, resolution and advocacy in resident care. 

Their mission is to protect individual rights and quality of life, to improve care, and promote the dignity of residents in Oregon’s licensed long-term care facilities. 

Contact: 800-522-2602 or 503-378-6533;