How to Protect Yourself from Elder Abuse

Some time ago I wrote about how family members can spot and report suspected elder abuse.  In that article I shared some statistics reported by the National Council on Aging and other agencies that bear repeating here:

  • 1 in 10 people aged 65 or older have experienced some form of abuse.
  • An estimated 5 million elder Americans are abused each year.
  • Only about 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse of any type are reported.
  • For financial abuse it’s estimated that only 1 in 44 cases are reported.

As helpful as it is to recognize and report abuse, it would be even better if we were able to prevent it from even happening at all.  There are steps our elder friends and family can take to reduce the likelihood that they will become victims of abuse in the first place.

The UC Irvine School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect has published a very thorough infosheet (1 page, front and back) outlining many of the ways elders can protect themselves.  Some of their most basic of these tips are:

  • Plan Ahead
    • Have your pension, retirement, Social Security, etc. income directly deposited into your checking account.
    • Get your estate plan in place, including incapacity planning tools such as a power of attorney and advance directive.
  • Be Cautious
    • Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry ( to reduce telephone solicitations.
    • Do not sign any documents you do not understand without consulting an attorney or trusted family member.
  • Stay Connected
    • Build a network of family and friends and stay in touch with them regularly.
    • Keep active and stay busy!  Get involved with your senior center, neighborhood groups, etc.

The infosheet is available in six different languages and you can view/download/print it for yourself or a loved one here.

Additional tips

In addition to the above, I also suggest:

  • Maintain your physical and mental health.
    • Eat regular meals and talk to your doctor if you find that you have no appetite.
    • Get regular exercise, even just walking is better than sitting still al day.
    • Schedule annual checkups with your doctor even if you feel well.
    • Take care of your teeth – new research links poor oral health to some types of dementia.
    •  Read, do crossword puzzles, sudoku or other mentally stimulating activities.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family.
    • People who are isolated from their support networks are more vulnerable to become victims of abuse.
  • Report abuse.
    • If you think you or someone else is being targeted for abuse call the Oregon abuse hotline at 855-503-SAFE (7233).
    • Don’t be afraid to call 911 if you or someone else is in immediate physical danger.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice or for the formation of an attorney-client relationship.

  • Brook D. Wood