Share: Share this article on Twitter Share this article on Facebook

When and How to Report Elder Abuse

Written by™

When and How to Report Elder Abuse

Written by™


Ask A Lawyer

As loved ones grow older, many will transition to life in a nursing home. While many nursing homes provide warm, caring, attentive environments for aging family members, light must be shed on a serious problem that is for the most part overlooked by the vast majority of the population.

Elder abuse is an alarmingly common and rarely discussed type of abuse.

With over 1.6 million residents living in nursing homes, over 33% of these residents will find themselves in a facility that has been reported for abuse according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Physical abuse is a common type of abuse in nursing homes and can include assault, such as slapping, hitting, or pushing a patient, inappropriate restraints, burning, or medication errors. Emotional abuse is also horrifyingly common in nursing homes and includes mental abuse, verbal abuse, humiliation, harassment, and intimidation by nursing home staff and even other residents. Other common types of elder abuse include sexual abuse, abandonment, and theft. Even if not committing outright abuse against an elder, an individual or nursing home may still be guilty of neglecting their patients, which can be just as harmful as outright abuse and both neglect and abuse can and do result in the death of elderly residents.

Many elderly residents are unable or unwilling to communicate their abuse.

When an elderly person is abused by a family member, friend, or staff member at a nursing home or care facility, they may be unwilling to communicate their abuse or unsure of who to reach out to for help. Unfortunately, many victims of elder abuse and neglect suffer from debilitating mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s which can make communicating on any level extremely difficult. The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study suggests that only 1 out of 25 cases of elder abuse are actually reported.

Here are some common warnings signs that could be indicative of elder abuse:

  • Unexplained bruising
  • Gangrene
  • Broken bones
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Bedsores
  • Becoming suddenly withdrawn
  • Acting easily agitated
  • Behaving with overt aggression
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Lack of medical personnel

Family members, neighbors, nursing home staff, and other residents are common parties guilty of elder abuse.

Studies show that family members of elderly people are responsible for 90% of elder abuse and neglect. Whether this abuse is administered directly or through negligence in their choice of care center, in-home aid, or support, this is still an alarming percentage.

Friends and neighbors are the next most likely to commit elder abuse, followed by in-home care aids, and nursing staff. In a poll taken of nursing home staff, over 50% confidentially admitted to having participated in one or more types of elder abuse or neglect at work. Other residents within the nursing home are the next most common perpetrators of abuse.

Finally, nursing home management is responsible for creating a community in which aggressive behavior is not tolerated by staff or residents, and adequate safety protocols are in place to prevent elder abuse. Poor treatment of employees and understaffing can also lead to employees behaving in an abusive/neglectful manner, which is another responsibility of nursing home management to address and prevent.

A variety of common damages are recouped in elder abuse lawsuits.

  • Medical expenses resulting from abuse or negligence which may increase the risk of death for the victim
  • Financial loss primarily in the form of theft
  • Life care expenses such as life support or ongoing medical expenses for chronic injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of care and companionship
  • Wrongful death
  • Funeral expenses.

If you suspect elder abuse, take action.

If you suspect elder abuse, there are a series of essential steps you must take to report that abuse and begin an investigation into a nursing home and its workers or the person you suspect to be guilty of abuse. These steps may vary slightly from state to state, so it’s a good idea to check online to learn about your state’s guidelines and how to file a report where you live. If you suspect an elderly person is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Here are some tips for reporting elder abuse:

  • Call your state’s adult protective services and elder abuse hotline, often found under your state’s Health and Human Services (HHS) department. To access the abuse and neglect hotline for the state of Washington, go here and make a report.
  • You may also use your state’s abuse hotline website to file a report, but this could take longer for the report to be processed.
  • You may choose to remain anonymous in your report, but if you do so you will not be informed of the results of the investigation.
  • When filing a report, you will be asked to answer a series of questions and should do so as thoroughly and accurately as possible. This should include providing the names of any nursing home and/or individuals you suspect may be involved.
  • In addition to filing a formal report, you have the opportunity to file a civil or wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for the damages your loved one experienced.
  • If you directly witness abuse, or if you fear an elderly person is in immediate danger, call the police immediately and file a report with them as well.

It is important that you take action if you suspect elder abuse, as your report could protect not only your own loved one but countless other elderly residents. It’s also wise to call an elder abuse lawyer after reporting the abuse to authorities. An investigation could take months to complete, but an experienced lawyer will be able to take quick action to protect your loved one and pursue the compensation your family is eligible for. Seeking legal counsel is another essential step you can take to protect your loved one and any other elderly residents who may be suffering from the same abuse.

Legal Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only. Use of this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Information entered on this website is not confidential. This website has paid attorney advertising. Anyone choosing a lawyer must do their own independent research. By using this website, you agree to our additional Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.