See, Stop, Prevent: Dependent & Older Adult Abuse

photo of older adult and advocateFor every reported case of older adult abuse, 24 cases go unreported. Help stop the cycle—it's everyone's business.

Do you suspect a loved one is experiencing abuse or are you experiencing abuse?

Call 1-800-675-8437 to speak to a trained counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential. 

Abuse can be financial, physical, emotional, or sexual, and can also include neglect or isolation. Signs and symptoms can appear as someone not being cared for, having unexplained bruises, being depressed or anxious, or having unusual bank account activity.

San Mateo County’s older adult population is expected to grow by over 70% by 2030. As more people grow older in San Mateo County, we need to ensure everyone is able to do so safely.

Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Alerts for San Mateo County

Click here for the latest "Senior Scam" Alerts from the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. 

Scam Spotlight: The IRS Scam

Recent reports indicate that scammers are calling older Bay Area residents, claiming to be representatives of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These scammers are trying to steal your identity and your money and will often use scare tactics and demand payment immediately. 

The IRS will not call you without first communicating with you in writing. 

The IRS does not:

•    Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
•    Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
•    Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
•    Ask for your credit or debit card numbers or Social Security number over the phone.
•    Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying. 

The IRS recommends hanging up immediately if someone calls you claiming they are from the IRS.

If you or a loved one receives a phone call like this or any other suspicious phone call, please call your local police department or sheriff’s office immediately.

What is Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse?

Financial Abuse

  • Financial abuse is when someone misuses, mishandles, or exploits an elderly or dependent adult's property, possessions, or financial assets. This includes using those assets without the individual's consent or manipulating the older or dependent adult for the financial benefit of another.


  • Neglect takes place when, intentionally or unintentionally, a caregiver fails to support the physical, emotional, and social needs of the older or dependent adult. Neglect can include denying food or medication, health services or contact with friends and family.


  • Self-Neglect requires intervention when elderly or dependent adults cannot meet their own physical, psychological, or social needs or they threaten their own health or safety. Typically, physical or mental illness, isolation, or substance abuse can prevent elderly or dependent adults from being able to take care of their own basic needs.

Physical Abuse

  • Physical Abuse includes slapping, hitting, bruising, beating, and other intentional acts that causes someone physical pain, injury, or suffering. Physical abuse also includes excessive forms of restraint used to confine someone against their will (i.e.., tying, chaining, or locking someone in a room).

Emotional Abuse

  • Emotional Abuse is threatening, intimidating, or humiliating an individual and causing them emotional pain, distress, or anguish. Emotional abuse can be verbal or non-verbal; it includes insults, yelling, and threats of harm or isolation.

Sexual Abuse

  • Sexual Abuse is any sexual activity to which the older or dependent adult does not consent or is not capable of consenting. Non-consensual sexual activity includes everything from exhibitionism to sexual intercourse.


  • Isolation can be any of the following:
    • Acts intentionally committed for the purpose of preventing elder or dependent adult from receiving his or her mail or telephone calls.
    • Telling a caller or potential visitor that an elder or dependent adult is not available or does not want to see or speak with someone when it’s contrary to an elder or the dependent adult’s wishes, whether he or she is competent or not, and is made for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from having outside contact.
    • False imprisonment, as defined in Section 236 of the Penal Code.
    • Physical restraint of an elder or dependent adult, for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent from seeing visitors.


  • Abandonment occurs when a caregiver deserts the elderly or dependent person.

What are the signs of abuse?

It’s better to call and be wrong than be right and do nothing. There are many signs that mean someone needs your help. These signs do not always mean the person is being abused or neglected, but they may be clues that something isn’t right. Call the TIES line 1-800-675-8437 and a trained Adult Protective Services Social Worker or Public Health Nurse can analyze the signs all while keeping your information confidential.

It may be a sign that an elder or dependent adult may be abused if they: 

  • Appear uncared for and has poor personal hygiene
  • Have unexplained bruises, sores, burns
  • Is depressed, confused, afraid, agitated, atypical behavior, withdrawn
  • Shows fear or anxiety around certain household members or caregivers
  • Have an adult child or caregiver overly dependent on the older adult for income or shelter
  • Have changes in appetite or a dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Is unable to do basic things such as make meals, shop, or get around
  • Have unusual activity in bank account, giving money away, has unpaid bills or cannot buy food
  • Is isolated and has restricted visits or phone calls

Take a stand and make the call—you could be saving someone’s life.

How can I help?
It’s everyone’s business to protect the health and well-being of older adults. Visit an older adult often and talk with them in private. Speak up when something looks or sounds wrong. When in doubt, just call: 1-800-675-8437.

The Elder and Dependent Adult Protection Team (EDAPT) is a partnership between the San Mateo County’s Health System’s Aging and Adult Services, District Attorney’s Office, and County Counsel’s Office committed to raising awareness on how to prevent and protect dependent and older adults from abuse in San Mateo County.

The initiative is offering free trainings on how to prevent older and dependent adult abuse in San Mateo County. Contact Nicole Fernandez at to schedule training and learn about:

  • Signs and symptoms of elder abuse
  • Signs of financial abuse in adult populations
  • Senior safety and avoiding scams
  • Mandated reporter training

To learn more about how to prevent elder and dependent adult abuse in San Mateo County, download this training flyer and contact: Nicole Fernandez,, and (650) 573-2109. 

How do I report that someone may be abused?

You can stop and prevent elder abuse. If you are concerned about someone  or suspect that a family member, friend, or neighbor may be suffering from abuse, all you need to do is call 1-800-675-8437.

What happens when I call and make a report?

All calls are confidential. A social worker or public health nurse will discuss the situation with you, investigate the situation and develop an intervention and support plan if appropriate with Adult Protective Services (APS).

APS case managers work with the person at risk to develop an appropriate care plan and ensure his/her safety. If there is a concern that the person may be unable to manage his/her own affairs safely, APS may investigate whether there is a need for conservatorship to better help the individual.  The person always has the right to refuse service or support.

The TIES line is available for consultation or to provide information and referral services.

If the abuse occurred in a long-term care facility, contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman (650) 780-5707 or visit

How can older and dependent adults protect themselves and prevent abuse?

  • Tell someone if you are being abused or neglected—the sooner you speak up the sooner you will get help
  • Seek medical help when you need it and tell your doctor if someone is harming you
  • Have someone you trust read documents before you sign them
  • Keep your social security number and financial information private
  • You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing— family, friends, caregivers should not pressure you to do anything you don’t want to
  • Check your financial statements frequently and don’t sign blank checks
  • Keep your money and valuables out of plain sight

What is a mandated reporter?

Everyone should report suspected abuse of older and dependent adults. California law requires that certain professionals report suspected abuse, whether it is abuse by another person or self-neglect.

The following individuals are required by law (Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15630) to report:

"Any person who has assumed full or intermittent responsibility for care or custody of an elder or dependent adult, whether or not that person receives compensation, including administrators, supervisors, and any licensed staff of a public or private facility that provides care or services for elder or dependent adults, or any elder or dependent adult care custodian, health practitioner, or employee of a county adult protective services agency or a local law enforcement agency is a mandated reporter.”

"Any mandated reporter who, in his or her professional capacity, or within the scope of his or her employment, has observed or has knowledge of an incident that reasonably appears to be physical abuse, abandonment, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or is told by an elder or dependent adult that he or she has experienced behavior constituting physical abuse, abandonment, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or reasonably suspects abuse shall report the known or suspected instance of abuse by telephone immediately or as soon as possible, and by written report sent within two working days."

Mandated reporters must report any incident of alleged, suspected, or reasonable suspicion of abuse. As a mandated reporter in a work setting, they are required to give their name. If they report something they learn about outside of work they can make the report anonymously.

All reports should be made or as soon as possible by telephone and mail (or fax to Adult Protective Services (650) 573-2310) of the written report (SOC 341) and at least within two working days of learning the information. Mandated reporters include, but are not limited to:

  • Health care practitioners, e.g. doctors, dentists, nurses, therapists, and health care office staff
  • Members of the clergy when they receive information about alleged or suspected abuse NOT within the context of a "penitential communication"
  • Adult personal care providers, e.g. attendants, day care staff, senior center staff
  • Adult and Child Protective Services staff
  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Medical Examiners

For information, advice and 24-hour emergency response,
click here for the TIES Line.