There is a form of abuse that occurs frequently and often silently: elder abuse.

According to Kentucky's Adult Protective Services Branch, "Most of us never see it because most victims are abused behind closed doors by their own family members. And, too often, people who do see it choose not to get involved because it's 'none of my business.' "

According to Attorney General Andy Beshear, across the country, an estimated one in 10 elderly Americans are victims of abuse.

Kentuckians should report abuse immediately. If someone is in immediate danger, dial 911. If abuse is suspected, reports can be made 24/7 to the Office of the Attorney General's Patient Abuse and Neglect hotline, 1-877-ABUSE TIP.

For reporting abuse, regardless of whether a facility is Medicaid-funded, or for protective services, guardianship and counseling; contact the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Adult Protection Branch at 1-800-752-6200 or 1-877-597-2331.

Thousands of cases of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation go undetected each year. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, for every case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown.

Only one in 14 cases of abuse and neglect are estimated to ever get reported to Adult Protective Services or the police. One in 25 cases of financial exploitation are reported.

According to a National Center on Elder Abuse survey, elder abuse occurs primarily in domestic situations, with perpetrators most likely being: adult children of the victim (32.6 percent), spouses (11.3 percent) and other relatives (21.5 percent).

The most common types of abuse are: self-neglect (26.7 percent), caregiver neglect (23.7 percent), emotional/psychological (13.6 percent), physical (12.5 percent), sexual abuse (.7 percent) and financial/material exploitation (20.8 percent).

Learn to recognize the following signs of self-neglect, caregiver neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and financial abuse.

Neglect

• Obvious malnutrition, dehydration

• Dirty, uncombed hair and offensive body odor

• Torn and dirty clothes that are not appropriate for the weather

• Hoarding

• Lack of medical care

• Apparent weight loss

Physical Abuse

• Frequent injuries such as bruises, burns, broken bones, especially when the explanation of the injury seems unrealistic

• Multiple bruises in various stages of healing, particular bruises on inner arms or thighs

• Pain from being touched

• Appears frightened or withdrawn

Emotional/Psychological

• Isolated from family and friends

• Sudden dramatic change in behavior: appears withdrawn, depressed, hesitant to talk openly

• Caregiver won't let victim speak for herself

• Caregiver scolds, insults, threatens victim

• Trembling, clinging

• Fearful, hopeless, anxious

Financial Abuse

• Unusual activity in bank account; sudden large withdrawals, expenditures that are not consistent with past financial history

• Use of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) when the person has no history of using ATMs or cannot walk or get to an ATM

• A recent Will, when the person seems incapable of writing a Will

• Rights signed away on legal papers without understanding what the papers mean

• Unpaid bills, such as house payment, rent, taxes, utilities

• Title to home signed over in exchange for a promise of "lifelong care"

• Missing personal belongings such as art, silverware, jewelry, TV.