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Elder Abuse


***Elder abuse is a complicated subject, and the content below is only a summary of some key information.  For a more thorough treatment, please be sure to see the resources listed at the bottom of this page or talk to a MayDay advocate.


What is elder abuse?

According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, elder abuse is harm that is inflicted by a person upon anyone age 65 or older or anyone of any age who lives in a long-term care facility.  It  could include any of the following:

  • physical harm or injury

  • failure to provide basic care

  • unwanted sexual contact

  • financial exploitation

  • verbal/emotional abuse

  • involuntary seclusion

  • neglect (including self-neglect)

  • abandonment by a caregiver


A common problem that usually goes unreported


According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about 5 million older adults are mistreated each year. Most cases go unreported, often because the victim is ashamed or loyal to the family member responsible. In some cases the person is dependent on the abuser for care; in others the victims is unable to communicate the problem or is socially isolated.


Who is involved?


The most vulnerable are people over 80 and those with symptoms of dementia or confusion.  Two thirds of victims are women.


Nearly 90% of the abusers are family members.  Of those, half are adult children and 20% are spouses or intimate partners. Others are friends, neighbors or service providers.  Abuse or exploitation can result from many factors, ranging from frustration or stress to a feeling of entitlement by caregivers.  As in most forms of abuse, a desire for control is usually a factor. The abuse often begins with small acts and escalates over time.  Neglect by caregivers and self-neglect are also common.


Warning signs of abuse, exploitation and neglect


  • Unexplained or suspicious injuries

  • Signs of being restrained

  • Unusual weight loss

  • Untreated physical problems 

  • Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions

  • Acting fearful or uncomfortable, especially around a caregiver

  • Unusual changes in behavior such as rocking, sucking or mumbling

  • Threatening, belittling or controlling behaviors by caregivers

  • Isolation

  • Unexpected or suspicious changes in financial habits or conditions


What you can do


Maintain contact with friends and family members.

Watch and listen for signs of abuse.

Contact MayDay to learn more about elder abuse.

Report suspicious behaviors or conditions to D.H.S. or the police.

Develop a safety plan to reduce risks.


Getting help


Factors such as social isolation, mental decline, and dependence can make elder abuse difficult to identify and correct.  For that reason, support agencies such as D.H.S. and MayDay should be contacted as soon as possible if you suspect elder abuse is occurring.  Both short-term and long-term help are available.


MayDay services are confidential.  Anonymous complaints can be made to D.H.S or law enforcement; names of witnesses remain confidential unless there is a court proceeding.


Other Resources for Seniors





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