Mandatory reporting of elder abuse

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Child abuse is mandatory reporting and so is elder abuse when it occurs in residential care. What about when the individual doesn't live in residual care?
I am currently in my last year of social work degree and I'm researching why elder abuse is not covered for all elders in our community.
As you are probably aware elder abuse is on the increase as our aged population lives longer and they remain in their own homes or cared for my family members.
Do you feel as a neighbour if you witness a son abusing their elderly parent would you report it? If as a bank worker you noticed an elder's bank account diminishing rapidly since their family member became power attorney would you report it? But would they know who to report it too?
Elder abuse comes under domestic violence and research shows people do not like becoming involve when they witness or become aware of domestic violence occurring.
We also know for a lot of our aged population they cannot for themselves report being abused for various reasons, health reasons, fear of getting family into trouble, losing contact of family just to mention a few examples.
What are your opinions on making mandatory reporting for elder abuse in our community, would you support it? Would you support a helpline to be set up similar to that for child abuse to report elder abuse?
I realise there pros and cons for this subject and would like to hear those opinions please.
Thank you

37 Comments

Requiring a health care worker or a teacher or a person who has some responsibility for the child or elder or vulnerable adult is one thing. Making reporting mandatory for private citizens who have no responsibility or training in recognizing abuse is another thing altogether, it seems to me. A public health campaign to make people aware of a confidential number they can call if they suspect abuse makes more sense to me than trying to mandate reporting by innocent bystanders, as it were.

Also there is the issue of false reporting, for devious reasons. Siblings are fighting over what should be done with mother's money. One notices a bruise on her arm and makes up a story about the other (who is caregiver) abusing her. Elders with dementia may not be able to give an accurate account. It's a real nightmare. I don't know whether "mandatory" reporting would have any impact on this or not.

If I saw abuse of a neighbor I would definitely report it. But I don't think most abuse happens where neighbors are apt to see it. And there would need to be a lot of "training" on what signs to look for. The whole first year my husband had dementia and was falling down regularly he had bruises all over him. He took blood thinners and the bruises were very colorful and noticeable. If some person not familiar with the situation had reported this as suspicious I'm sure I could have defended myself, with the doctors' support, but it would have been added stress to an already overwhelming situation. For that reason I would be reluctant to report possible abuse unless I saw it happen or knew a lot about the situation. Just seeing bruises, for example, would not prompt me to report it.

I don't know who in a large banking organization would be keeping track of what is going on in a modest individual account.

I would support a helpline. I would not support mandatory reporting except by those with professional responsibility.
yes, it should be mandatory, just as for children. Unfortunately not all signs of abuse are that visible as shrinking bank accounts. But what can you do.
i think the family doctor is the front line here if the doctor is worth his / her salt. a good doc can observe the interaction between carer and elder and see if impatience / frustration is present. we have an aps lady who keeps an eye on us and she thinks im the devil himself. i agree with jeanne, siblings and conclusion jumpers could cause a nightmare for nearly any caregiving situation. aps says i should be shouldering some of the bills here, doc says mom is to be attended 24 hrs a day. both mandates are conflicting and humanly impossible. my meager bills are a fraction of what AL or home care would cost. too many simpleminded people spew out simplistic " solutions ".
A helpline? Possibly. A bank reporting information on someone's account? Isn't that stepping over the line? Big Bro is alive and well and we need to be very careful about this. Just as elders crying wolf and falsely accusing someone of abuse, I've been through that nightmare, it can also be said for the other side.
I'm not really sure what the solution would be. We need to protect our elders. We also need to protect their caregivers and families. I, for one, consider privacy very important. Be careful what you wish for. In an attempt to help and protect, you can also ruin someone else's life. Very slippery slope, IMHO.
capnhardass, yes, you can't be paying attention to two things at once full time. But if all are aware of that, there must be suggestions for a solution. Whoever is criticizing can just come on over and help. Sometimes, though, even though there is more work than can be done, caregivers won't give up any responsibilities. They would rather play the martyr while the patient suffers. We all have to leave our egos at the door and ask for (and accept) help sometimes.
ruralwannabe, are you suggesting that the doctor should go over to capnhardass's house to allow him to take a job and satisfy the APS folks? LOL. The "critics" in this case are outsiders with conflicting expectations.

And, yup, sometimes caregivers won't give up any of the responsibilities that could be delegated.

Now ... are you in favor of mandatory abuse reporting? :)
@rural,
you make a fine point. i personally am not guilty of the hero complex. i severed a relationship with an old " friend " last week because she wouldnt help me with mom. i write to my sisters often asking them to visit to give mom some additional female companionship. a whole bunch of no - reply is what im getting back. i do honestly respect your opinion, its quite valid in some cases.
i s'pose im in favor of the current system of professionals reporting abusive situations but the next door neighbor probably cant manage his / her own problems and dont know s**t about the challenges of caring for dementia, alz, bipolar patients.
I can understand the impact of being wrongly investigated for elder abuse. But would you rather be investigated and proven innocent than this be completely forgotten and elder abuse within our society continue to escalate. To me personally it would show someone cares.
I agree a helpline/hotline for elder abuse needs to be set up for people that can ring if they feel they have witnessed/suspect elder abuse. I personally would rather report something and if proven wrong I would apologize than turn a blind eye and let that individual continue to be abused.
As for banks yes I admit it would be hard to monitor but I was thinking of bank tellers who see regular customers and notice a sudden change in the aged person's account. Once again it would be better to be wrong than turn a blind eye and allow this to continue to happen if you suspect elder abuse.
Its not a quick fix solution and community awareness needs to be addressed. Not with tv commercials shown once every couple of years but shown regularly on TV, billboards every type of advertisement,
We are all god willing grow old one day and I would like to think it can be done in safe fulfilling environment free of all forms of abuse. Education of the community is needed to achieve this.
I bought about 30 songs on itunes. Had never downloaded music before in my life and my bank called me to see if it was me downloading that stuff or had my account been compromised? I appreciated them checking in. Which is totally not the point.....

I thought there were elder abuse hotlines already?

Would I call one if I thought an elder were being abused or neglected? It would depend upon what I witnessed but yes, I would call a hotline if I thought an elder were being abused. Of course I would.
aha. Good discussion! I am in favor of mandatory reporting, the danger is in the crying wolf that might slow the response to valid cries. The answer would be the help line that discussed the issue to help discern if the behavior qualifies as abuse. When I think of elder abuse, I think more of the Whatever Happened to BabyJane type - remember that old movie where Betty Davis was an invalid and her sister as caregiver would inflict emotional abuse. As a prisoner in a wheelchair, nothing physical or even verbal was done, the kind of abuse I fearis to not respect, to withhold attention or social interaction. To not listen to an elders thoughts because they don't value them, and perhaps to gain a roof or a possible inheritance by just sticking around. That is insidious and hard to establish. Only regular visits and care for the caregiver so they don't harbor resentments. So yes, I favor mandatory abuse reporting. We have it in my state.

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