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May 1, 2020

Preventing Adult Abuse

Adult Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation

The following material was taken from an official publication of:
Bureau of Elder and Adult Services
Department of Human Services
11 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0011
Christine Gianopoulos, Director

What is Adult Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation?

Abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults happens in Maine. Many people are uncomfortable talking about these problems, especially if the abuser is a family member or friend. Help is available if people are aware of the problem and take steps to report it.
Abuse includes actions which result in bodily harm, pain or mental distress. Examples of abuse are:

  • Pushing, hitting, shaking, pulling hair
  • Tying to a bed or chair, or locking in a room
  • Forcing into sexual activity
  • Giving the wrong medicine or too much medicine on purpose
  • Denying visits with friends or family
  • Name calling, harassment or verbal threats

Neglect is a failure to provide care and services when an adult is unable to care for him or herself. Neglect may be at the hands of someone else or it may be self neglect. Neglect includes failure to provide:

  • Adequate shelter, clothing or food
  • Personal care
  • Medical attention or necessary medication
  • Necessities such as glasses, dentures, hearing aides, walkers, etc.

Exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an adult’s money or property for another person’s profit or advantage. Examples of exploitation include:

  • Forcing an adult to change a will or sign over control of assets
  • Forcing an adult to sell or give away property or possessions
  • Keeping the adult’s pension or social security check

What are Adult Protective Services?

Adult Protective Services is a program within the Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services. The Bureau is part of the Department of Human Services. Its purpose is to provide and arrange for services to protect adults who are unable to protect themselves from abuse, neglect or exploitation. If the person has mental retardation, services are provided by the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services.
What conditions contribute to abuse, neglect or exploitation?

  • Misunderstanding of an adult’s physical or emotional needs or abilities
  • Stress because of financial, family, marital or health problems
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Lack of training or education
  • Social isolation

What can Adult Protective Services staff do?

  • Investigate reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation
  • Arrange services to help make adults safe
  • Arrange services to allow adults the most personal freedom possible
  • Seek guardianship and/or conservatorship of adults who are unable to make decisions for themselves and who have no family or friend(s) that are able to make these decisions for them.

Who may receive these services?
Any dependent or incapacitated adult who may be in danger of abuse, neglect or exploitation may receive assistance from Adult Protective Services. A dependent adult is a person who is wholly or partially dependent upon other people for care and support, either emotional or physical, and who would be in danger if that care and support were withdrawn. An incapacitated adult is a person who lacks sufficient understanding to make or communicate decisions about his or her own person or property. These adults may need someone else to make some or all of their decisions for them. Clients of Adult Protective Services may include:

  • Frail or vulnerable elders
  • People with mental illness
  • Those with alcohol or drug abuse problems
  • Those with medical problems or disabilities

Guardianship and/or Conservatorship
Guardianship and conservatorship provide protection and care for incapacitated adults. Only a Probate Court can declare an adult to be incapacitated and appoint a guardian or conservator.
The Department of Human Services and the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services can provide information and help with guardianship and conservatorship for an incapacitated adult who may be in danger of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Any able and willing adult may be a guardian or conservator. If there is no private individual able and willing to assume the responsibility, then either the Department of Human Services or the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services may be appointed as public guardian or conservator.

Mandatory Reporting of Adult Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation

Maine law states that certain people must report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult if they believe the adult is incapacitated or dependent. Persons convicted of failing to report may be fined up to $500. If the person is a professional, the court or the Department also will report to that person’s licensing board or accrediting unit.

Individuals who must report

While acting in a professional capacity

  • Ambulance Attendant
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Pharmacist
  • Chiropractor
  • Physical Therapist
  • Clergy
  • Physician (M.D. and D.O.)
  • Dentist
  • Physician’s Assistant
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Podiatrist
  • Emergency Room
  • Personnel
  • Psychologist
  • Humane Agent
  • Registered Nurse
  • Law Enforcement Official
  • Social Worker
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Speech Therapist
  • Medical Examiner
  • Unlicensed Assistive Personnel*
  • Medical Intern
    • *Includes Personal Care Assistant/PCAMental Health Professional

Other Individuals:
Any person who has assumed full, intermittent or occasional responsibility for the care or custody of an incapacitated or dependent adult, whether or not the person receives compensation; or
Any person affiliated with a church or religious institution who serves in an administrative capacity or has otherwise assumed a position of trust or responsibility to the members of that church or religious institution, while acting in that capacity, whether or not the person receives compensation.

What to Report

Give as much information as you can:

  • The adult’s name, address and age
  • Any known physical or mental impairments
  • Nature and extent of the danger to the adult
  • Name of the caretaker, if any
  • Any other information related to the problem

Optional Reporting
Anyone may report suspicion of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a person who is incapacitated or dependent. Making a report is a first step toward providing protection for the adult.
Anyone who makes a report in good faith is protected under the law if someone files a suit in a civil court.
Adult Protective Services maintains confidentiality of reporters except in very limited circumstances.

What Can You Do to Help?

  • Learn the facts about adult abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • Report suspected cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation
  • Invite a speaker to your group or club to discuss the issue
  • Share this information with others

Where to Report to Adult Protective Services

To make a report of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an incapacitated or dependent adult, call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-624-8404. Services are nationwide, 24 hours and toll-free.

  • TTY (during business hours): 1-800-624-8404
  • Statewide TTY (after hours): 1-800-963-9490
  • Out-of-State TTY (after hours): 207-287-3492

To report abuse, neglect or exploitation in a facility licensed by the Department of Human Services, call statewide toll-free at 1-800-383-2441 (TTY 207-287-3492).

Reporting to the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services

To make a report of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult with mental retardation, call the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services Regional Office at:
Portland Office, Region 1 (York & Cumberland)

  • 207-822-0270
  • 207-828-0272 (TTY)

Augusta Office, Region 2 (Kennebec & Somerset)

  • 207-287-2205
  • 207-287-1798 (TTY)

Lewiston Office (Androscoggin, Franklin & Oxford)

  • 207-753-9100
  • 207-753-9102 (TTY)
  • 1-800-866-1803 (toll-free)

Thomaston Office (Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc & Waldo)

  • 207-596-2300
  • 207-596-2303 (TTY)
  • 1-800-704-8999 (toll-free)

Bangor Office, Region 3 (Hancock, Piscataquis, Penobscot & Washington)

  • 207-942-4360
  • 207-941-4392 (TTY)
  • 1-800-963-9491 (toll-free)

Presque Isle Office (Aroostook)

  • 207-554-2100
  • 207-764-2000 (TTY)
  • 1-800-767-9857 (toll-free)

For reporting after business hours, call the CRISIS NUMBER at 1-888-568-1112