New national elder abuse reporting requirements have gone into effect for nursing homes. They are a great innovation in the pursuit of elder abuse prevention across the nation. No one likes to talk about elder abuse, which is precisely one of the conditions that permits it to go on. It’s time that we all take a few minutes to review elder abuse basics.
Elder and dependent adult abuse applies to people over 18 who depend on others for their basic needs. All elderly Americans, wherever they live, are considered a vulnerable population. Seniors who live in residential care and nursing homes are in the minority, as most seniors live in their own home or with family. Even seniors who live alone in the community benefit from our oversight and attention.
What constitutes elder abuse is a matter of state law. Generally, the following forms of abuse are:
- Physical: The most obvious with signs of bruises, burns, cuts, skin tears, welts, bumps, rashes and that’s just on the outside. There could be internal injuries or infections brewing.
- Sexual: Any non-consensual sexual activity, including forced nudity, pornography, rape or unwanted touching. People with advanced dementia, or who have no capacity to make decisions cannot give consent for sexual activity.
- Financial: Can be asking seniors to sign checks and other documents, accompanying them to the bank to make withdrawals, hiring bogus vendors for unneeded services, “borrowing” money, etc.
- Psychological / Emotional: When the abuser makes threats or intimidates a senior. These acts can be verbal or non-verbal, such as giving someone “the silent treatment.” Isolation, also called social abuse, is a form of psychological abuse. Sometimes caregivers will withhold a senior’s mail, intercept phone calls, isolate them from the outside world or family members as a way to control the senior or conceal malfeasance.
- Neglect: The failure to provide care that the elders requires either by way of a doctor’s order or common sense. There is also self-neglect, which is when a senior in the community fails to provide for his or her own health, safety and basic needs. Abandonment is similar to neglect. It applies to someone who has physical custody of an elder and literally deserts that person with no provision for their health or safety.
Who must report abuse is also a matter of state law. However, it is safe to assume that if you work or volunteer with seniors. you are expected, even mandated, to report suspected abuse. Anyone can report suspected elder abuse to law enforcement, Adult Protective Services or the long-term care Ombudsman. Each state and Washington, DC, have these resources available. New elder abuse reporting for nursing homes means that suspected abuse must be reported to law enforcement within 2 hours if there is serious bodily injury and within 24 hours for other cases. Elder abuse is a crime.
The threshold for reporting is whether or not you have “reasonable suspicion” that abuse has occurred. Aside from seeing blood or bruises, if it feels like something wrong has taken place, if you sense the elder is afraid or hiding something, or if you notice sums of money disappearing, listen to your instincts. It is not your job to determine if the law has been broken, only to alert authorities of your reasonable suspicion. It may seem intimidating, but you could be saving a life!
Read more about it at www.elderjustice.com to learn about abuse prevention in your community.
About the Author
Tracy Green Mintz joins the OpenPlacement team as the Training and Resources Advisor. Tracy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (#23964), trainer and long-term care consultant based in Southern California. As a social worker, Ms. Greene Mintz believes that knowledge is power, and our elderly clients deserve all the power we can shift to them in our complicated healthcare service delivery system. She is a nationally recognized expert on the topic of Relocation Stress Syndrome in the elderly and has given workshops across the U.S. to case managers, administrators, nurses, social workers, skilled therapists and other disciplines that serve seniors. She also offers Medicare-covered one-on-one counseling to seniors in their homes.
Her trainings are popular and memorable because her common sense approach includes lots of laughter and team-building that validate the very difficult work of eldercare. “I’m not trying to change the system in as much as I am trying to help clients become more effective consumers in that system. I prefer to train direct care staff to recognize and reinforce consumer-based choices because it is in their interest to do so. Encouraging seniors to participate in their care makes everyone’s job easier, which reduces costs and leads to positive outcomes for all, including the organization. I always address the business angle because health care in the U.S. is a business and all staff should appreciate the crucial link between good customer service and good care.” Her philosophy is that best practices build the best facilities, and our seniors deserve the best. Through social service consultation and SSD training in long-term care, she focuses on quality of life for residents and substantial compliance for facilities as a mutually beneficial outcomes.
Ms. Greene Mintz has worked with seniors and their families at all levels of care, from independent living through end-of-life since 2000. She holds a master’s degree in social work and a gerontology certificate from the Institute on Aging at Portland State University in Oregon and master’s degree in film and television from UCLA. She is a proud member of the California Society for Clinical Social Work and the National Association of Social Workers, of which she has served on the CA State Board. She was recently appointed to the faculty of Boston University’s School of Social Work. Prior to becoming a geriatric social worker in, Ms. Greene Mintz worked for twelve years in the film and television industry. She likes to comment that the similarities between working in showbiz and working in mental health are staggering!