Adult Protective Services, partners working to protect elderly Texans

More than 120,000 Texans reported suspected elder abuse or neglect in 2023, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Out of those reports, 70% were investigated by DFPS Adult Protective Services staff and 40% were validated. 

On Wednesday, APS hosted a Partnering to Protect symposium in Austin to discuss what the agency and its partners are doing to help the most vulnerable.

"We go out and investigate reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation in the community," said Michael Aguirre, program administrator for APS.

By 2030, one in five Texans is projected to be 65 or older.

"And then it gets more staggering, because they project that 8.3 million Texans will be 65 or older by the year 2050," said Aguirre.

In Central Texas alone, APS investigators validated 3,389 allegations of abuse or neglect that involved individuals over the age of 65 in 2023.

"It might be a caregiver who is struggling to provide services for their loved one and is starting to neglect them in their medical appointments," said Aguirre. "Or it could be a family member who's taken advantage of a wealthier, older adult who has additional resources that they're using in an inappropriate way to benefit from that."

While APS has its own investigators, they also work closely with law enforcement.

"We’re the first people sometimes in people's homes and living conditions, seeing the struggles that a lot of the elderly are facing in our community," said Ashley Luedtke, an Austin Police Department officer.

However, these kinds of calls can be hard to investigate because allegations can be hard to prove. For example, allegations of financial exploitation.

"A lot of times, unfortunately, this population is giving their money out freely and willingly without knowing that they're getting scammed or being misled," said Luedtke. "And so it's not theft per se, because they're giving it away."


Additionally, there can be legal gray areas. 

"What we think of as abuse or neglect, maybe by letter of the law, isn't. So understand that we as law enforcement are doing everything that we possibly can, and we absolutely understand where family members and loved ones are coming from, because we're all a family member or loved one of somebody that is going down that road, too," said Luedtke. "But law enforcement is not necessarily always the best outlet for that. And so that's why when we're on scene sometimes, and we're giving other resources or making different phone calls, it's to better help those who are calling us. It's not to dismiss them or ignore them."

The most common cases APS looks into are related to neglect - often self-neglect.

"We're here to help," said Aguirre.

To report abuse or neglect, call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or make an online report.