In the first two articles of this three-part series, we discussed the warning signs and risk factors to look for if you suspect elder abuse. Be aware this is a very sensitive subject, one that you may not at first take seriously. You might even dismiss signs of abuse as symptoms of aging, frailty, or a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s. Lastly, you might be confused because the symptoms of aging can overlap with signs of abuse. That’s why it is vital to become knowledgeable and look for clusters of the risk factors and warning signs.
Whatever the case, elder abuse is a violent crime. Elderly victims are not responsible and need someone to speak up for them. Caution is required. If you are aware of a situation involving elder abuse, do not put the victim in a more vulnerable position by thinking you can handle the situation or by confronting the abuser yourself.
This type of abuse can occur in the home, in the community, or in a nursing home or other long-term care facility. When reporting an incident, it is important to relate specific facts, remain unemotional, and avoid exaggeration.
Steps for Reporting Elder Abuse
- If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help.
- Talk to a trusted doctor, therapist, local hospital, or a trusted friend. Physicians have a legal obligation to report the abuser and help the victim find safety.
- Look in the yellow pages under state agencies. Each state has at least one toll-free elder abuse hotline for you to call. In most states, the first agency to respond to a report is the Adult Protective Services or Agency, the Division of Aging, the Department of Social Services, the Area Agency on Aging, or the Department of Aging. These agencies have the responsibility to investigate allegations, determine situations, intervene, and offer services and advice.
Other Agencies to Contact:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides counseling to victims of domestic violence and can link victims to local support services. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY.
- The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), directed by the US Administration on Aging, is a resource for public and private agencies, professionals, service providers, and individuals in elder abuse prevention services, training, technical assistance, and research.
- Eldercare Locator sponsored by the Administration on Aging (AoA), Department of Health and Human Services, makes referrals to appropriate agencies in your local area. 1-800-677-1116.
- National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units prosecutes patient neglect and abuse in home health services and health care programs that participate in Medicaid and Medicaid provider fraud. Each state has its own Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) under the purview of the state attorney general’s office.
- American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has divisions and special programs related to elder abuse.
- American Psychological Association
- National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
- National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
- National Adult Protective Services Association
Elder Abuse is a serious crime! Be an alert caregiver, effective communicator, and loving person! Help keep a loved one, a friend, or a neighbor safe! Help yourself if you are the victim!