When should elder abuse be reported?

Everyone deserves to have relationships that are free from domestic violence. Every county in California has an Adult Protective Services (APS) agency to help older adults (age 60 and older) and dependent adults (ages 18 to 59 who are disabled), when these adults are unable to meet their own needs or are victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. County APS agencies investigate reports of abuse from elders and dependent adults living in private homes, apartments, hotels, or hospitals. If the danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, tell someone.

Relate your concerns to local adult protective services, the long-term care ombudsman, or the police. Older people living in nursing homes may be susceptible to abuse by caregivers or other residents. Sometimes this abuse goes unnoticed, especially if the person is unable to express the abuse or fears revenge on the abuser. The resulting investigation can determine if an elderly person is being abused or, at a minimum, can provide them with useful information to ensure that they are protected from abuse in the future.

Other times, elder abuse occurs under the influence of strangers, such as professional scammers, lawyers, bankers, or insurance agents, who take advantage of an older adult's vulnerabilities. For additional information on elder abuse, see FindLaw Elder Abuse Overview or resources provided by the National Center on Elder Abuse. Elder abuse sometimes occurs at the hands of family, friends, and caregivers who are in close proximity to the elderly in danger. The risk of psychological abuse increases if the elderly person has problems with memory loss, problems with drugs or alcohol, or a history of family violence.

What makes the problem of elder abuse even more difficult is that only one in twenty-three cases is reported to the authorities. People who are required to report suspected elder abuse will generally face penalties for not doing so. However, there are signs of elder abuse that can be observed by others, including medical professionals who regularly interact with older people. For this reason, an elder or dependent adult who has been abused may refuse or withdraw consent at any time for preventive and corrective services offered by an APS agency.

Under the laws of your state, professionals who would be in frequent contact with older people, such as medical personnel, police, care center employees, social workers, or even clergy, may be required by law to report suspected elder abuse. Here are some possible warning signs that an elderly or disabled adult may be experiencing abuse, or that the person is at increased risk of abuse. If you witness elder abuse or suspect that abuse or neglect may be occurring, regardless of the particular circumstances, determine your California county's elder abuse hotline number and make the call. Each state also has its own Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies, which receive and investigate complaints of elder abuse.

If you discover that an older adult needs immediate medical attention, call 9-1-1 immediately; get them the direct care they need, and then proceed to report related elder abuse.

Geoffrey Rossow
Geoffrey Rossow

Amateur bacon expert. Incurable beer buff. Social media scholar. Avid food trailblazer. Hardcore beer practitioner.

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