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Elder abuse in Ohio is closer than you think

By Ursel J. McElroy, Director, Ohio Department of Aging

Portrait of Ursel J. McElroy1-855-OHIO-APS.

Remember that number. Store it in your phone. I hope you and your loved ones never need it, but if that day comes, you’ll be thankful you have it. It is the Ohio Adult Protective Services hotline, and it could save a life and prevent a lot of heartache and pain.

Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation is widespread and under-reported. Nationally, an estimated one in eight older adults suffer from elder abuse. Given that rate, U.S. Census data suggests that more than 200,000 Ohioans age 60 and older experience some form of elder abuse. Yet Ohio’s county departments of job and family services received just 34,000 calls in 2020. This suggests that tens of thousands of instances of elder abuse went unreported.

This is an alarming trend and, frankly, is unacceptable. The time is now for all Ohioans to be aware of the types of elder abuse, recognize the warning signs, and know who to call when they suspect someone is in danger. 

According to the U.S. Administration for Community Living, elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Put simply, elder abuse occurs when someone intentionally acts in a way that harms an older adult.

Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. It includes neglect and isolation as well as financial abuse and exploitation. Warning signs of abuse include signs of physical harm, sudden changes in behavior, increased involvement of other family members in their lives or decisions, lack of hygiene, unclean or unsafe living conditions, missing money or property, and increased isolation.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services operates our state’s Adult Protective Services (APS). APS serves Ohioans age 60 or over who live in their own homes and communities. APS staff investigate reports of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and partner with appropriate agencies to address the situation. Call the toll-free state APS hotline at 1-855-OHIO-APS (1-855-644-6277). There’s no requirement of physical proof, and callers can choose to be anonymous.

To report suspected abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility or by staff of a home care agency, call the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 1-800-282-1206.

We all have the social responsibility to report suspected elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, but if you work in certain professions, you may be required by law to report it. These fields include financial service, legal, senior service, counseling, religious, and medical professions. Visit www.elderjustice.ohio.gov to learn if you may be a mandatory reporter.

A single call can save a life. Check on the older adults in your life and don’t hesitate to make that call if you think there’s a problem. No one deserves to live in fear. You can be the person who brings hope to what seems to be a hopeless situation. Learn more at aging.ohio.gov/elderabuse

Additional Resources

The following resources may help prevent elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation:

  • The Ohio Department of Aging’s Staying Connected service. Participants receive a free, daily check-in call to ensure that they are okay. During the call, they can choose to connect to senior services in their community or request a friendly chat with specially trained staff. Visit aging.ohio.gov/stayingconnected or call 1-833-632-2428 to register.
  • Ohio's aging network provides an array of services and supports for older adults and their families that can help reduce the risk of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation by meeting various needs. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the area agency on aging serving your community.