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Reporting Elder Abuse and Neglect

Elder abuse is a widespread problem that only stands to get worse as the baby boomer generation continues getting older. By some estimates, only one in fourteen acts of elder abuse are reported. State and federal statistics indicate close to 200,000 Californians are victims of some type of elder abuse each year, and that the abuse can continue or even escalate if no intervention occurs. Reporting suspected abuse is critical and can save a victim’s assets, physical health, mental health, dignity, and even their life.

If you believe that someone you know or love is suffering at the hands of a caregiver, you should report the abuse immediately. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and voice your suspicions. Any person who speaks out about suspected elder abuse is protected from both civil and criminal liability for reporting.

Mandated Reporters

Under California law, certain individuals are considered mandated reporters, which means they are required to report elder abuse if they witness an incident, receive visible or audible information or evidence of abuse, or are told by an elderly person about an institute that appears to constitute abuse. Mandated reporters that fail to report elder abuse may be criminally liable and face imprisonment and/or fines. Typically, these reporters include:

  • Employees working at a facility that provides day care, nursing care, or residential care for seniors;
  • Physicians, licensed health care professionals, and all employees of long-term health care facilities;
  • Social workers, Marriage & Family Counselors;
  • Teachers;
  • Members of the clergy;
  • Commercial firm and photographic print processors;
  • A custodian caring for an elderly individual or a dependent adult;
  • Employees of a law enforcement agency or protective service such as Adult Protective Services; and
  • Anyone who has taken on the role of caring for an elderly adult, regardless of whether that person receives compensation.

Mandated reporters must report both actual and suspected elder abuse and neglect and may do so immediately either in person or by phone. They should follow up any verbal report with a written report within two days.

If you suspect abuse at a skilled nursing facility or residential care facility for the elderly, you should report your concerns to an authority, such as:

  • In an emergency situation, by calling 9-1-1;
  • Local law enforcement including the police department, sheriff's department, or the local District Attorney's office;
  • Office of State Attorney General, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse;
  • Long-term Care Ombudsman Program;
  • Adult Protective Services;
  • Department of Public Health, Licensing and Certification; and/or
  • Community Care Licensing, Department of Social Services.

If the suspected abuse did not occur at a facility, the reporter should contact their local Adult Protective Services Agency or their local law enforcement.

Resources for Reporting Abuse

There are numerous state, county, and city agencies available for reporting claims of elder abuse. Each have different benefits and different assistance they can offer victims, as each have unique resources and areas of authority.

Local Emergency Responders, Law Enforcement, and Prosecutors

You should contact local law enforcement if you or someone you know may be an elder abuse victim. Many sheriffs and police departments have Elder Abuse Units dedicated to investigating and addressing these crimes. In an emergency, call 9-1-1 for assistance. County District Attorney and City Attorney Offices often create units as well dedicated to investigating and prosecuting these crimes.

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse

This department safeguards California’s multi-billion-dollar Medi-Cal program from fraud. It also investigates elder abuse, neglect, and poor-quality care in long-term facilities and subsequently prosecutes the offenders. The Bureau has created a hotline for reporting suspected abuse or neglect, which is the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse at (800) 722-0432 or Department of Health Services at (800) 822-6222.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

Ombudsmen are trained advocates for the protection and rights of long-term care facility residents, including many elderly people. These individuals are tasked with investigating and resolving complaints by or on behalf of individual residents. A local Ombudsman’s program or their crisis hotline may be contacted to report known or suspected elder abuse.

Adult Protective Services

Finally, California counties have Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies to assist the elderly that may be victims of abuse, exploitation, or neglect. Each agency has a 24/7 hotline to respond to suspected abuse claims. Unlike some agencies, APS also investigates elder abuse claims occurring outside care facilities and may offer services to guarantee the safety of a vulnerable or endangered elderly person.

In addition to reporting elder abuse to the appropriate agencies, it is also important to contact an attorney who is well versed in elder abuse litigation. The individuals and facilities responsible for abuse should be held accountable for their negligent and/or willfully malicious behavior and the damages they have caused their victims. At a minimum, it may prevent the abuse/neglect from occurring to someone else's loved one in the future.

For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced elder abuse and neglect attorney, please call us directly at (866) 338-7079, or click here to submit your inquiry online.

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