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Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation – Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

Learn more about how vulnerable and elderly adults can get help in King County.

Vulnerable adults include disabled adults as well as the elderly. Adult abuse is when vulnerable adults are knowingly, intentionally, or negligently harmed, or at serious risk of harm.

A vulnerable adult is defined by Washington as a person who can be described as:

  • 60 years of age or older who has the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for himself or herself.
  • Found incapacitated under chapter RCW 11.88.
  • Who has a developmental disability as defined under RCW 71A.10.020.
  • 18 or older with a legal guardian.
  • Admitted to any facility.
  • Is receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under chapter RCW 70.127.
  • Is receiving services from an individual provider.
  • Who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under chapter RCW 74.39.

Adult abuse includes:

  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Exploitation
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse

Washington State legislation defines abuse in RCW 74.34.020 (2)

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) lists legal definitions and examples of vulnerable adult mistreatment.

Our role

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (PAO) and Adult Protective Services (APS) have different roles in adult abuse cases.

We help vulnerable adults by:

  • Prosecuting cases of neglect, financial exploitation, and sexual assault.
  • Working with police, social service agencies, and medical professionals to improve processes including:
    • Referrals
    • Investigations
    • Prosecutions
  • Providing training to first responders so they can better recognize and react appropriately.

The PAO’s role is to prosecute cases of adult abuse while APS investigates them. APS has information on their website about the warning signs of adult abuse, their investigation process, and role in adult abuse cases.

Contact the Elder Abuse Team

Send questions to our Elder Abuse Team by emailing:

Adult abuse resources

If you are a senior in need of civil legal services, call the CLEAR*Sr hotline at 1-888-387-7111.

Learn more about the CLEAR Hotline

Agencies offering help

The Elder Justice Initiative

The Elder Justice Initiative (EJI), part of the US Department of Justice, provides resources on how to recognize, report, and prevent all forms of elder abuse including:

  • Up-to-date information on the latest forensic research.
  • Offers webinars for elder abuse professionals and those interested in elder abuse topics.
  • Pamphlets and tools on elder abuse for purposes of community outreach.
  • Resources and tools for victims, prosecutors, and law enforcement.
  • How to contact law enforcement and other services and agencies in your area if you suspect elder abuse.

The National Center on Elder Abuse

Directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is committed to helping national, state, and local partners in the field be fully prepared to ensure that older Americans will live with dignity, integrity, independence, and without abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The NCEA is a resource for: Policy makers Social service and health care practitioners The justice system Researchers Advocates Families.

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) is an association of researchers, practitioners, educators, and advocates is dedicated to protecting the safety, security, and dignity of America's most vulnerable citizens. It was established in 1988 to achieve a clearer understanding of abuse and provide direction and leadership to prevent it. The Committee is part of 6 partners in the National Center on Elder Abuse (listed above), funded by Congress to serve as the nation's clearinghouse on information and materials on abuse and neglect.

Elders and Families

Elders and Families, a section of the Administration on Aging, is designed to assist older persons and their caregivers quickly obtain information and resources on a variety of aging-related topics. The information will help you become more familiar with issues affecting older adults, and the services and opportunities available to assist them.

The Aging and Long-Term Support Administration

The Aging and Long-Term Support Administration is a division of the Washington State DSHS. The division assists children and adults with developmental delays or disabilities, cognitive impairment, chronic illness, and related functional disabilities. The goal is to give them access to needed services and supports by managing a system of long-term care and supportive services that are high quality, cost effective, and responsive to individual needs and preferences.

The Office of Fraud and Accountability 

The Office of Fraud and Accountability is a division of the Washington State DSHS. This division has delegated authority to conduct investigations related to allegations of fraud within programs administered by the DSHS. Investigations focus on Welfare eligibility issues and Vendor Fraud.

Investigators coordinate with:

  • Staff at the Community Services Offices statewide
  • County prosecutors
  • Local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies