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How to report elder abuse

Senior citizens deserve our respect and our protection. Aging can bring certain difficulties with it, making older people susceptible to poor treatment or even abuse. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 10 percent of seniors suffer abuse of some kind. This abuse could be physical, but it also includes abuse that is sexual, emotional, psychological, or financial. Another less thought of form is neglect from another person or even from the senior him or herself.

Sadly, authorities receive reports of only a very low number of cases of elder abuse. The victim may be reluctant to report because the perpetrator is a family member or close friend. If you think that a senior citizen in your life has suffered abused, there are ways to get help.

Reporting elder abuse

Massachusetts has an Adult Protective Services agency that handles cases of elder abuse, as do all states in the U.S. It is similar to the more commonly known Child Protective Services. APS investigates claims of abuse using agents that have specialized knowledge in assisting senior citizens. Sometimes, they will work with police if there is suspicion of any criminality.

If you're worried that you're mistaken about potential elder abuse, authorities say it is still alright to get APS involved. They can properly assess the situation and decide whether to intervene on the senior citizen's behalf. If abuse is happening, it is vital that the victim gets help to prevent further harm, whether that is physical or financial.

Mandated Reporters of Elder Abuse

Massachusetts law says that certain professionals are required to report any suspicion of elder abuse, such as medical professionals, law enforcement, first responders and others. States that use mandatory reporting say they have seen a rise in reports since implementation of such laws. Mandated reporters may face a fine if they do not file a report of elder abuse. Federal law dictates that those who work in a long-term care facility that gets $10,000 or more in federal funding are also required to report potential elder abuse.

What to tell authorities

If you call or reach out to APS or another proper authority to report elder abuse, there are several pieces of information that you can provide. Doing so will help agents determine the best course of action to take, if any. Be prepared to tell them:

  • The names of the elder and perpetrator as well as their relationships
  • Your name, contact information and relationship to all parties
  • Where the elder lives and his or her contact information
  • Witnesses names and contact information
  • How old the victim is and what his or her mental and physical state is
  • Exactly what you have witnessed or are concerned about
  • Dates and times of any events, if you have them
  • If you think the senior is in immediate danger
  • About improper use of the seniors' finances or assets, if any
  • Any documentation that may support your assertion

If you still have questions, the National Center on Elder Abuse may be able to answer them. Reporting elder abuse can be difficult, but it is important. No person deserves that type of treatment from anyone but especially not from trusted individuals in positions of power, such as those who work in nursing homes. Speaking up for those who may not be able to speak for themselves is an act of bravery.

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