February 3, 2021

Reports of abuse and neglect of older adults and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities were down at least 15 percent and 40 percent, respectively, in 2020, Multnomah County announced today. 

The pandemic has isolated older adults and individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities from friends, family and other trusted individuals. Because of that, experts believe, cases of abuse and neglect are likely going unreported. 

“We know that abuse is happening, and the pandemic is making it harder for people to notice the signs” said Brian Hughes, who manages the County’s Adult Protective Services program. “People should not assume mistreatment has disappeared, and should remain vigilant to signs of distress of vulnerable people.“

In 2019 Multnomah County Adult Protective Services (APS) received 10,463 reports of abuse for older adults and people with physical disabilities. In 2020, APS received 8,740 reports, a decrease of 16 percent. Reports for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities went from 1,697 to 1,006 in that same time span, down 41 percent.

Abuse and neglect can occur in a person’s own home, the community or a professional care setting.  Abuse can occur from strangers, family members or paid caregivers.  Signs of abuse and neglect include, but are not limited to:

  • Unexplained or unusual injuries

  • Dramatic weight loss, dehydration or poor hygiene

  • Untreated medical conditions

  • Unpaid bills despite adequate assets

  • Sudden appearance of new acquaintances

  • Social isolation or limited communication with friends and family

The decline in reporting is fueling concerns that vulnerable people are suffering in silence. Multnomah County is urging the community to recognize the signs and risks associated with abuse and neglect.

Common risk factors for abuse and neglect associated with COVID-19 include:

  • Disrupted access to social services

  • Breakdown in community or social supports

  • Food or economic insecurity

  • Increased alcohol or drug use by victim or caregiver

  • More reliance on technology, which creates digital financial exploitation risks 

Multnomah County urges people concerned about abuse and neglect of an older adult or a person with a physical disability to call 503-988-4450 or visit Adult Protective Services

For concerns about someone with an intellectual or developmental disability, call 971-201-2940, or visit Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Abuse Investigations

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