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Elder Abuse Complaints

In some states, citizens are required to report if they believe an elderly person is being abused. Whether you live in one of those states or not, you should always report abuse if you think it is occurring. You do not need concrete evidence to report abuse. The relevant government agencies will investigate the matter themselves. They will also speak to the potential victim and offer their services to him or her. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and you could be saving someone’s life. Don’t hesitate if you believe someone is being abused.

Who Do I Call?

First, if you believe the elderly person’s life is in immediate danger, you should call 911. If you have evidence that the abuser has committed a crime, you can also call the police.

In other situations, you should first call Adult Protective Services. Every state has local Adult Protective Services agencies that will help in elder abuse cases. They will investigate the situation and act based on what they find. They will intervene and offer services if the situation is serious. You can find your local Adult Protective Services by searching on the internet or in a phone book. You can also call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. This is a nationwide toll-free hotline that will help direct you to services and can give you the number and address of your local Adult Protective Services.

Most nursing homes are regulated by the federal government. If there is abuse in the nursing home, you should contact the appropriate federal authorities. Long-term Care Ombudsman programs are responsible for investigating abuse in nursing homes, so you should contact them first. You can also contact the state Attorney General and report the abuse to them too.

What Should I Tell Them?

You don’t need physical evidence to report elder abuse. The authorities will always want to investigate the matter themselves anyway. Still, you want to provide any details you can. You should tell the authorities your reasons for suspecting abuse, and give them as much information as possible.

For example, you could tell authorities that the elderly person has been wearing the same pair of clothes for weeks or appears to not be eating or drinking. If you’ve noticed physical abuse or emotional abuse, you should describe those events to the person who’s making the report.

Information you will want to provide to the authorities:

  • Name, number, and address of victim
  • Name of abuser (if possible)
  • Nature and extent of abuse
  • Potential signs of abuse that you saw
  • Circumstances regarding victim’s living situation
  • Information you have about the victim’s health, illnesses, and medication
  • Is the victim capable of making medical decisions for himself?
  • Any other relevant information

Things to Remember About Reporting Abuse

Don’t Confront the Abuser on Your Own: If you confront the abuser, there is no guarantee that they will talk to you or that you will be able to stop him. After being confronted, he may become angry and retaliate against the victim. This may cause more severe abuse than before. The abuser may also start hiding evidence that abuse is occurring, and that will make it harder to protect the victim later.

The Elderly Can Refuse Services: When Adult Protective Services and the authorities meet with the victim, the victim has the right to refuse services and to refuse pressing charges against the abuser. In some situations, the victim does not want to press charges against a family member or they might be afraid of retaliation. They may also be afraid of losing their caregiver and would rather have an abusive caregiver than no caregiver at all. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do if the elderly person refuses care.


“Elder Mistreatment Assessment.” Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing. New York University, College of Nursing, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013. http://consultgerirn.org/uploads/File/trythis/try_this_15.pdf

“How to File a Complaint Against a Nursing Home.” California Advocates for Nuring Home Reform. CANHR, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.canhr.org/factsheets/nh_fs/html/fs_NH_complaint.htm

United States. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center on Elder Abuse: Stop Abuse. Department of Aging, 2013. Web. http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/stop_abuse/index.aspx

United States. Medicare. Inspections and Complaints. Medicare, 2013. Web.http://www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/About/ICInfo/Inspections-and-Complaints-Info.aspx


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