Adult abuse reaches unprecedented levels in Washington state

Release Date: 
Jun 05 2019
DSHS Office of Communications
Chris Wright

OLYMPIA - Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed June 2019 Adult Abuse Awareness Month. In 2018, Adult Protective Services (APS), a division of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), received more than 60,000 reports of vulnerable adult abandonment, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect. It’s a sharp increase from the 48,000 reports received in 2017 and more than triple the 19,000 reports in 2012. This awareness month is designed to promote education, identification and reporting throughout the state.

“We have an increasing number of vulnerable adults in Washington state,” said Kathy Morgan, APS Director. “Our job is to promote individual choice while offering protective services.”

The legal definition of ”vulnerable adults” includes people 60 years of age and over with a physical, functional or mental inability to care for themselves. It also includes persons 18 years and older with a developmental disability, under a legal guardian, admitted to a DSHS-licensed facility or someone who receives services in their own home.

Adult abuse can manifest itself in many ways such as neglect and self-neglect as well as financial, physical, sexual and mental abuse. Signs of abuse can include lack of adequate food, suspicious financial withdrawals, sudden change in behavior, social isolation and missed or canceled appointments. Additional information regarding signs of abuse is available on the APS website

“We rely on the public to be our eyes and ears when it comes to vulnerable adult abuse,” said Morgan. “Understanding and identifying the signs of abuse is the first step in protecting people. Many cases go unreported simply because no one realized what was going on. If you’re unsure whether someone is experiencing abuse or neglect, please make a report to APS.”

Suspected cases of abandonment, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect should be reported to APS by filing a report online at or by calling 1-866-END-HARM.

People can participate in Adult Abuse Awareness Month by checking in on loved ones, offering respite breaks for caregivers, learning the signs of adult abuse and educating others. To learn more about vulnerable adult abuse, visit the APS website.


DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.