For Social Workers, Requirements for Reporting Elder Abuse
Senior adults who are victims of abuse or neglect often hesitate to report the mistreatment for a variety of reasons, including the inability to do so, fear of retaliation by an abuser, or fear of getting someone in trouble. So the task of reporting elder abuse often is left to professionals.
For social workers, the responsibility to alert authorities about instances of suspected elder abuse as a legally mandated reporter is not always clear. Jurisdictions vary in their categorizations of mandated reporters, although social workers are among professionals most likely to be required to report elder abuse.
What Constitutes Elder Abuse?
Anyone with a responsibility for reporting elder abuse should understand its definition and warning signs. The term refers to intentional or negligent actions that cause harm to elders, typically defined as persons over the age of 50. Abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual or financial, and it can include neglect and abandonment. Warning signs include:
- Bruises, burns, fractures and other indications of physical injuries.
- Bloody underclothing, bruising in genital areas or sexually transmitted diseases.
- Sudden changes in finances, including large withdrawals from bank accounts.
- Unexplained changes in behavior.
- Poor hygiene, malnutrition or dehydration.
The Social Worker’s Role in Reporting Elder Abuse
In all 50 states, social workers are legally classified as mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. The same requirements do not apply in all states for reporting elder abuse.
However, many states have passed laws to address the growing problem of elder abuse and do require certain individuals to alert authorities when they suspect a case of elder abuse. In many instances, social workers are designated as mandated reporters. Even in states in which social workers are not required by law to report suspected abuse, systems are in place for voluntary reporting.
Social workers can check with the American Bar Association for a list of specific reporting requirements by state. They also can consult with qualified elder abuse attorneys for more information specific to their area.
Contact Qualified Elder Abuse Attorneys
Social workers who believe an elder is in imminent danger should alert local law enforcement authorities. For clarity on whether elder abuse is occurring, find help through the federal Administration on Aging’s eldercare locator, or consult with qualified elder abuse attorneys. For more information about stopping elder abuse, contact the offices of Garcia & Artigliere, or call (800) 328-2630.