Office of Children and Family Services

Adult Protective Services

The Problem

To report adult abuse, call (within New York State only):1-844-697-3505 or
contact the local county Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services.

Victims of adult abuse include:

  • the frail elderly
  • the developmentally disabled
  • the chronically mentally ill
  • the physically disabled
  • substance abusers

According to a study by the National Center on Elder Abuse, adult/elder abuse in domestic settings is a widespread problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable, impaired individuals across the country. However, it is largely hidden under the shroud of family secrecy. While younger, impaired adults can be victims of abuse, elderly persons are abused at a disproportionately higher rate. Elder abuse is grossly underreported. Some experts estimate that only 1 out of 14 domestic elder abuse incidents (excluding the incidents of self-neglect) comes to the attention of authorities. If this estimate is accurate, then domestic elder abuse cases reported to state adult protective services or aging agencies represent only the tip of the iceberg.

According to a Profile of the Protective Services for Adults Caseload in New York State (1997), authored by Irv Abelman, approximately 25,000 Adult Protective Services referrals were received by local social services departments. About two-thirds of the cases involved adults over 60. One-third of the cases involved abuse of the impaired adult by another person. The balance of the caseload involved adults who were neglecting their own needs.

There are certain RISK FACTORS which increase the likelihood that someone will be the victim of elder abuse:

Decreased Physical Health and Mobility

May cause increased dependency on others for the necessities of daily living.

Declining Mental Status

Although the chances of suffering from dementia do increase with advanced age, decreased mental functioning is NOT an inevitable result of aging.

Confusion and forgetfulness in the elderly are not necessarily a result of a progressive dementia like Alzheimer's disease. Similar symptoms are also associated with depression, grief, malnourishment, head injuries, and other medical conditions that may be reversible.

Social Isolation

Isolation is often the result of deaths of contemporaries, spouses, siblings and friends. Abusers often try to keep an elder isolated by:

  • refusing to apply for economic aid or services;
  • resisting outside help; and/or
  • changing social and healthcare providers frequently so that the elder's situation is hard to assess.

Isolation can hide the effects of physical abuse, neglect or exploitation and can also be used as a form of emotional abuse.

Web of Dependency

Elders may become increasingly dependent on others for their care. Caregivers may also be dependent on the elder for financial assistance, emotional support or housing.

Caregiver Stress

Sometimes the demands of caring for a very frail elder person cam lead to caregiver "burnout", resulting in impatience, depression, anger and hostility...sometimes resulting in abuse. Other pressures, such as unemployment, can exacerbate caregiver stress.

Impairment of Either Caregiver or Elder

Physical impairment, mental illness, or mental retardation of either the elder or the caregiver are also risk factors for abuse.

Substance Abuse

If the elder abuses alcohol or drugs, the result might be increased confusion, forgetfulness, agitation or unsteadiness. This makes him or her less able to defend against abusers.

Caregivers who are substance abusers may financially exploit the elder to finance the caregiver's addiction and may physically or emotionally abuse the elder in the process.