Office of Children and Family Services

Adult Protective Services

Risk Factors & Indicators

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.

Familial/Caregiver Risk Factors

  • Substance abuse
  • Unemployment by caregiver
  • Lack of knowledge of duties, resources, and/or services
  • Caregiver stress, fatigue and/or dissatisfaction
  • History of violence
  • Psychological and/or physical impairments
  • Poor impulse control

Indicators of Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Active Neglect

  • Bruises, welts, fractures, rope burns, signs of hair pulling
  • Unexplained (sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Signs of malnutrition and/or dehydration such as weight loss or dry skin
  • Soiled clothing or bed linens
  • Unexpected or unexplained health problems
  • Unexplained paranoia
  • Excessive fear
  • Insomnia, sleep deprivation, or need for excessive sleep
  • Signs of excessive drugging, lack of medication, or other misuse such as decreased alertness

Risk Factors That Increase Likelihood of Elder Abuse

Decreased Physical Health and Mobility

This 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 friend. 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.
  • Restricting transportation.

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 can lead to caregiver "burnout," resulting in impatience, depression, anger and hostility. This in turn may lead to abuse. In addition, other outside 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 their addiction and may physically or emotionally abuse the elder in the process.

Please note that these are only examples. If you have further questions, contact your local department of social services APS unit.