You are legally required to report elder abuse. Here’s how to do it.


Elder abuse is often a silent crime. Most of us never see it because most victims are abused behind closed doors by their own family members. And, too often, people who do see it choose not to get involved because it’s “none of my business.”

Elder abuse is a crime that knows no boundaries. Elder Abuse can occur anywhere, anytime; it can affect all races, religions, ethnicities, cultures, and socio economic groups. It can occur in community settings such as private homes or in an institutional setting. The definition of abuse varies and mandatory reporting laws vary from state to state.  There is no uniform reporting system; therefore cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation often go undetected each year.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study found that for every case known to programs and agencies 24 were unknown.

Kentucky is a mandatory reporting state. If you suspect elder abuse, you are legally required to report it.  You can report abuse at the 24 hour toll free hotlines at 1-877-597-2331 or 1-800-752-6200.  Calls can be made anonymously.

Kentucky Department for Community Based Services received 30,037 calls for reports concerning adults 60 years and older during fiscal year 2015.  Those calls were screened and 12,618 met acceptance criteria for an adult protective services investigation.

If you believe that an elderly person is in imminent danger, call 1-877-597-2331 or (800) 752-6200 or your local law enforcement agency immediately. If the person is not in imminent danger but you are suspicious, watch the way the caregiver acts toward the elderly or disabled person. Look for a pattern of threatening, harassing, blaming or making demeaning remarks to the person — or isolating the person from family members and friends. Watch for an obvious lack of helpfulness or indifference, aggression or anger toward the person. Listen for conflicting stories about the elderly or disabled person’s illnesses or injuries.

Learn to recognize the following signs of self neglect, caregiver neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and financial abuse. Here are some:


Obvious malnutrition, dehydration

Dirty, uncombed hair and offensive body odor

Torn and dirty clothes that are not appropriate for the weather



Lack of glasses, dentures or hearing aid

Lack of medical care

Exterior or interior of the home in poor repair

Filthy living environment, strong odors

Little or no food in the refrigerator, or decayed and moldy food

Many pets or animals who appear neglected

Garbage or litter; excessive alcohol containers


Physical Abuse

Frequent injuries such as bruises, burns, broken bones, especially when the explanation of the injury seems unrealistic

Multiple bruises in various stages of healing, particularly bruises on inner arms or thighs

Chronic or acute physical illness

Pain on being touched

Obvious malnutrition, dehydration

Loss of bowel and bladder control

Many medicine bottles in sight; seems sleepy, sedated

Appears frightened or withdrawn

Never leaves the house; never allowed visitors

Never mentions family or friends

Confined to a chair or bed

Locked in a room or tied up

Clothes that are not appropriate for the weather


Sexual Abuse

Evidence of sexually transmitted disease

Irritation or injuries to the mouth, genitals or anus

Upset when changed or bathed

Fearful of a particular person

Loss of bowel and bladder control


Emotional/Psychological Abuse

Isolated from family and friends

Sudden dramatic change in behavior: appears withdrawn, depressed, hesitant to talk openly

Caregiver won’t let victim speak for herself

Caregiver scolds, insults, threatens victim

Trembling, clinging

Fearful, hopeless, anxious

Lack of eye contact

Confused, disoriented

Angry, agitated


Financial Abuse

Unusual activity in bank account; sudden large withdrawals, expenditures that are not consistent with past financial history

Use of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) when the person has no history of using ATMs or cannot walk or get to an ATM

A recent Will, when the person seems incapable of writing a Will

Rights signed away on legal papers without understanding what the papers mean

Unpaid bills, such as house payment, rent, taxes, utilities

Lack of food, clothing, or personal supplies

Title to home signed over in exchange for a promise of “lifelong care”

Missing personal belongings such as art, silverware, jewelry, TV