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Mandatory Elder Abuse Reporting-What is it, Why and What’s next?

Updated: Feb 29

In streamlining some training materials for my home care agency’s care team, I did some deep digging and thinking about elder abuse reporting. Mainly because home care agencies are mandatory reporters. We often hear about abuse cases in personal care homes or nursing homes, but that’s only because most elder abuse isn’t reported because most elder abuse happens in the person’s home, by an unpaid friend or family member.

Here is the list of Mandatory Reporters from the State of Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging Website-this may be different in your state.

  • Adult Daily Living Centers

  • Personal Care Homes

  • Assisted Living Residences

  • Birth Centers

  • Community Homes for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

  • Community Residential Rehabilitation Services

  • Department of Human Services (DHS) Nursing Facilities

  • DHS-licensed and DHS operated residential facilities for adults

  • Domiciliary Care Homes

  • Family Living Homes

  • Home Care Registry

  • Home Health Care Organization or Agency

  • Hospices

  • Intermediate Care Facilities for the Intellectually Disabled (private and state)

  • Long Term Care Nursing Facilities

  • Long Term Structured Residences

  • Personal Care Homes

  • State Mental Hospitals

This list is extensive and covers a wide bandwidth of mandatory reporters that work and interact with the individuals who utilize these services. But what does Mandatory Abuse Reporting mean for the average person who doesn’t work in one of these environments and why should everyone be aware of it?

Of course, we all know that if we see a child that shows signs of abuse, it’s a see something, say something situation. This is because there is no doubt that children are a vulnerable population that need to be protected. They have Lifetime movies about this.

The elderly are also a known vulnerable population, which is why there shouldn’t be a question about this, but it becomes much more complicated when someone who once was a functioning autonomous adult, with an income and assets and a home and children, becomes frail quickly. It seems strange but it’s easier to let a loved one live in neglect because they used to be a functioning member of society and they don’t want any help.

There’s a lot of denial that comes with aging and ignoring a problem definitely will not solve it. I can’t tell you how many times families have known that their loved one is living in squalor but can’t intervene because they want to “honor wishes”.

Statistics show that most elderly are abused in their own home and by someone they know, usually a spouse or an adult child. The types of abuse are, physical, emotional, sexual, neglect and financial, with financial being one of the most prevalent, especially when the senior can no longer manage their finances on their own.

So what happens if one of my hired caregivers comes into your home and has concerns that you are abusing your aging parents? They are mandatory reporters. They have to report it to the office on aging, whether you feel it’s warranted or not. You can also report suspected abuse about a hired caregiver or a nursing home or assisted living to the office on aging if you feel that your loved one is being abused in these environments, so it goes both ways.

Once abuse is reported, the office on aging will open an investigation and you and your elderly loved one will be contacted by a case worker. Keep in mind that this can also happen in a personal care home or a nursing home. The case worker will contact any and all parties involved in the care of this person in question to get to the bottom of the situation and help the victim if changes need to be made.

It’s important to know how to avoid this situation with your elderly loved ones, especially if you feel that your hands are tied and you are allowing your parent or loved one to live in an unsafe environment because they refuse to change. First of all, don’t abuse your elderly loved ones, obviously. And if you fear that things are getting out of hand and you are unable to care for someone, please reach out for resources before something gets reported.

In the case that you can’t convince a change on their part, this is often a way to open the communication. You may want to gently remind your loved one that if they are unsafe, the office on aging might get involved and then they won’t be given as many choices about their care and finances.

Let’s face it, we’re all just trying to get by and if you are in a situation where you are a caregiver for an aging loved one, you need to know the signs of abuse and how to avoid allowing your loved one to fall into the system.

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