Adult Protective Services


Abuse is defined as physical harm, bodily injury, or attempt to cause physical harm or injury, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm or bodily injury on an elder or a disabled adult.


Neglect is defined as harm to an elder’s or a disabled adult’s health or welfare, without reasonable medical justification, caused by the conduct of a person responsible for the elder’s or disabled adult’s health or welfare, within the means available for the elder or disabled adult, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.


Exploitation is defined as the wrongful taking or exercising of control over property of an elder or a disabled adult with intent to defraud the elder or disabled adult.

The following indicators may be helpful when deciding whether abuse, neglect or exploitation may be taking place. 

Physical Indicators

  • Injury that has not been cared for properly.
  • Injuries that are not compatible with history.
  • Frequent use of the emergency room and/or hospital or health provider.
  • Evidence of inadequate or inappropriate administration of medication.
  • Lack of necessary equipment such as walkers, canes, bedside commode.
  • Lack of necessities such as heat, food, water and unsafe conditions in the home.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Soiled clothing or bed; untreated bed sores.
  • Pain when touched.
  • Bruises, welts, black eyes, lacerations, or rope marks.
  • Bone fractures, broken bones and skull fractures.
  • Cuts, lacerations, punctures, wounds, burns, untreated injuries in various healing stages.
  • Dehydration and/or malnourishment without illness-related cause.
  • Loss of weight.

Behavioral Indicators

  • Agitation, anxiety
  • Withdrawal
  • Ambivalence
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Isolation
  • Resignation
  • Hesitation to reply
  • Non-responsiveness
  • Contradictory statements
  • Unusual behavior attributed to dementia

Indicators of Financial Exploitation

  • Unusual activity in bank accounts.
  • Power of attorney given when the person is unable to comprehend his or her financial situation, and in reality, is unable to give a valid power of attorney.
  • Refusal to spend money on the care of the protected person (Numerous unpaid bills and overdue rent are clear signs when someone else is in charge of making payments).
  • Recent change of title of house in favor of a "friend" when the elder is incapable of understanding the nature of the transaction.
  • Checks and documents signed when the older person cannot write.
  • Signatures on checks or other documents by someone other than the owner of the account or a forged signature.
  • Loss of personal belongings such as art, silverware, jewelry, or other valuable property.
  • The inclusion of additional names on a bank signature card.

Indicators from Family/Caregivers

  • The elder may not be allowed to speak for himself/herself, or to others without the presence of the caregivers.
  • Obvious absence of assistance, attitudes of indifference, or anger toward the dependent person.
  • Family member or caregiver "blames" the individual (for example, accusation that incontinence is a deliberate act).
  • Failure to provide physical aids such as eyeglasses, hearing aids or dentures.
  • Withholding of food and water, or failure to help with personal hygiene.
  • Inappropriately leaving an older person alone for long periods of time.
  • Aggressive behavior such as threats, insults, or other verbal harassment.
  • Previous history of abuse to others.
  • Withholding of security and affection.
  • Problems with alcohol or drugs.
  • Social isolation of the family or isolation or restriction of the older adult's activity in the family unit.
  • Conflicting accounts of incidents by the family, supporters, or victim.
  • Unwillingness or reluctance to comply with service providers in planning for care.
  • Unauthorized withdrawal of an elder's funds using the elder's ATM card.

Indicators of Self-Neglect

  • Dehydration, malnutrition, untreated or improperly attended medical conditions and poor personal hygiene.
  • Hazardous or unsafe living conditions/arrangements.
  • Unsanitary or unclean living quarters.
  • Inappropriate and/or inadequate clothing; lack of the necessary medical aids.
  • Grossly inadequate housing or homelessness.

Mandatory Reporting of Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation

South Dakota law requires individuals in the medical and mental health professions and employees or entities that have ongoing contact with and exposure to elders and adults with disabilities, to report knowledge or reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect of elders and adults with disabilities. 

To report abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elder or an adult with disabilities, please contact your local law enforcement agency, local state's attorney's office or the nearest Department of Social Services' office.

In addition to mandatory reporting, people can make reports on a voluntary basis. Any person who knows or has reason to suspect that an elder or adult who is disabled has been abused or neglected may report that information. Persons who in good faith make a report of abuse or neglect of an elderly or disabled adult are immune from liability.

Facilities or programs that are licensed or regulated by the Department of Health or Department of Human Services will follow department procedures in place for reporting.

A mandatory reporter who knowingly fails to make the required report is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Report the following if you know or have reason to believe someone needs protection from abuse, neglect, or exploitation:

  • Name, age and address of the adult who is in danger.
  • Names and addresses of guardian or relatives, if known.
  • Names of other people involved, if any.
  • Description of the situation causing the danger.

Tribal communities may have different definitions of abuse, neglect, exploitation and different reporting requirements. Please check with the appropriate authority in your area.


All reports are confidential. Civil and criminal immunity is available for good faith reports by employees, agents or members of medical or dental staff of facilities regulated by the Department of Health.

Non-Legal Interventions

  • Linkages with appropriate resources, such as home health services, adult day care, adult foster care or respite care.
  • Referral for legal assistance for a power of attorney, durable power of attorney, or other legal advice.
  • Referral to counseling, support groups, or medical/mental health providers.
  • Nutritional assistance.
  • Placement assistance.
  • Case Management.

Legal Interventions

  • Emergency commitment of the mentally ill or developmentally disabled.
  • Guardianship of the person.
  • Conservatorship for property.
  • Referral for appointment of a representative payee.
  • Referral for further investigation by law enforcement for violation of Chapter 22-46, abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a disabled adult, or for investigation of other criminal offenses committed against elderly.