There is a call for tougher laws to encourage the public to 'call out' abuse of vulnerable adults.
It comes as new Red C research found 10% of Irish adults have witnessed adult abuse in the past year.
While 81% have said that tougher laws would encourage them to take greater action to combat abuse.
The research was commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland.
It found that 12% of those who witnessed abuse of a vulnerable adult in the past year did nothing at all, 47% discussed it with the person being abused and 40% discussed it with a trusted person.
Just 15% sought professional advice, and 3% reported what they witnessed to an authority - such as the Health Service Executive (HSE) or Gardaí.
Safeguarding Ireland claimed it highlighted the need for greater resourcing of safeguarding vulnerable adults, both in terms of effective legislation and a dedicated 24-hour information and support helpline.
Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard Clarke said: "The fact that 10% of Irish adults reported having witnessed abuse shows that official HSE figures (in excess of 10,000 alleged cases reported annually) are just the tip of the iceberg.
"Based on our adult population (over 18s) of approximately 3.8 million, this would imply an estimate of potentially 380,000 witnessed cases of adult abuse per annum.
"The message from this research is clear - we need tougher laws to support people to take action and to call out abuse of vulnerable adults.
"When a vulnerable, or frail elderly person is forced to do something against their will - beit to do with their finances, their care, or their liberty - it is abuse and this is against the law."
In 2015 new legislation on Assisted Decision Making was enacted, however it has yet to be implemented.
Ms Clarke added: "The research has told us that stronger laws, which are enforced, is what will drive the public to be more vigilant in tackling adult abuse. We need these pieces of legislation in force with urgency."
The Red C research was based on a representative sample of 1,000 adults and also found that younger people, and that those from higher social groupings, were more likely to report that they had witnessed abuse.
A nationwide public awareness campaign on safeguarding is taking place from May 20th to 31st.