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Recognizing and Preventing Elder Abuse

The Ocean State Center for Independent Living (OSCIL) is committed to advocating for the rights and well-being of some of the most vulnerable populations in our society, those who are aging or disabled. Today, on Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we want to raise awareness about the risk of abuse, its signs, and the steps we can all take to prevent it.

What is Elder Abuse?

An older black man with a short gray beard and a purple shirt. He looks sad, sitting with his back hunched and his face downturned.

Elder abuse encompasses a range of harmful behaviors directed at older adults, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse, as well as neglect. It can occur in various settings, such as private homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Sadly, abusers are often people the elder trusts, including family members, caregivers, or other residents in care facilities.


It's crucial to be vigilant and recognize the signs of elder abuse. Here are some common indicators:

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, or injuries.

  • Withdrawal, depression, or unexplained changes in behavior.

  • Sudden changes in financial situations, missing belongings, or unexplained bank withdrawals.

  • Poor hygiene, unattended medical needs, or unsafe living conditions.

You Can Help Safeguard Our Elders

Everyone has a role to play in preventing elder abuse.


Report suspected abuse to the RI Office of Healthy Aging. You can call their Abuse Help Line at (401) 462-0555 or file a report online at

A wrinkled, elderly hand clutches at top of an arm protectively.
  • If the elder lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, call the RI Long Term Care Ombudsman at (401) 785-3340.

  • Abuse doesn’t just happen to elders. If you suspect that someone with a disability between the ages of 18 and 59 is being abused , call the Quality Assurance Unit at the RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals at (401) 462-2629.

Seek Medical Help: Ensure the elder receives appropriate medical care if there are signs of physical or sexual abuse.

Provide Emotional Support: Listen to the elder's concerns and reassure them that you are there to help them through this crisis.


A younger woman in a red top stands arm-in-arm with an older woman in a gray sweater while carrying a bag of groceries. They are both smiling and standing outside in the sunshine beside a reflective wall.

Regularly check in on older neighbors, friends, or family members. Take the time to be aware of what is happening in their life and help them stay connected to the community.

Donate to or volunteer for organizations that support older adults and help to keep them happy, healthy, and safe.


Educate yourself about elder abuse and share what you learn with others to help raise awareness and prevent abuse.

OSCIL’s Role in Preventing Abuse

We provide resources and support to promote the independence and well-being of older adults, including advocacy, information and referral, and independent living services. By empowering older adults, people with disabilities, and their families, we help keep people connected to communities that are safe and supportive.

On Elder Abuse Awareness Day, please join OSCIL in spreading the word. Share this blog post, participate in community events, and advocate for policies that protect older adults and people with disabilities. Let’s work together to create a world where everyone lives free from abuse and neglect.

Click here for more information on how OSCIL can assist you or your loved ones or contact us directly at (401) 738-1013.

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