Washington’s elderly population has seen a significant increase in episodes of abuse. As determined by the Evergreen State’s Department of Social and Health Services and reported by K5 King-TV News, reports of abuse more than tripled during the years between 2012 and 2018. State health officials describe the current level of reported abuse as having reached “unprecedented levels.” 

Individuals who cannot care for themselves and are age 60 or over fall into the category referred to as “vulnerable adults,” which also includes individuals age 18 and older with developmental disabilities. The year 2018 brought Washington State more than 60,000 vulnerable adult abuse reports; this represents a greater than 25% increase over the previous year. 

Alarming statistics for seniors 

The National Council for Aging notes that only about four out of every 100 cases of elder abuse actually get reported. The primary cause for the lack of reporting may be the inability or hesitancy of many seniors to communicate the abuse they experience. To stem the growing tide of exploitation, fraud and abuse affecting seniors, those who are close to them can help by remaining watchful for certain tell-tale warning signs. 

Warning signs of elder abuse 

The Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that family members and friends look more closely when they notice changes in a senior’s lifestyle, demeanor or finances. Physical evidence such as bruises or abrasions may indicate physical abuse, while withdrawal and changes in mood could be a sign of emotional or financial abuse. 

In-home or facility-based caregivers may also be a source of abuse for vulnerable adults. Forward-looking estate planning and guardianship administration may account for a significant difference in helping to ensure a senior family member’s freedom from abuse.