Elder Abuse and Fraud Reporting Resources in Massachusetts
Elder abuse takes many forms, including psychological, physical, and financial, sexual, or neglect. It may not always be clear to friends, family, or victims that they are experiencing abuse. An estimate of 10% of elders residing in the community are abused in some way. That is a number that is far too high. Any number at all is far too high.
This is precisely why it is so important to spread the word, increase awareness of the prevalence of abuse of older adults, and share resources so that elders, their caregivers, and their family members know where to turn for education, reporting, and for help.
How is Elder Abuse Defined in Massachusetts?
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs in Massachusetts defines elder abuse as “physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, caretaker neglect, financial exploitation and self-neglect.” In Massachusetts, people over the age of 60 are defined as elders for the purposes of investigation and handling of allegations of elder abuse.
If you suspect abuse of an elder, or if you are a victim of abuse, here is where you can turn for help:
MA State Elder Abuse Reporting and Resource Agencies
In Massachusetts reports of elder abuse should be made to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA). You can report online via an online form, or you can report by telephone to their Elder Abuse Hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Online reporting of elder abuse in Massachusetts: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/report-elder-abuse
- Report elder abuse by phone to the EOEA at (800) 922-2275
PLEASE NOTE!! If you believe an elderly person is in immediate danger, DO NOT use the online reporting system! Call 911 or Call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-922-2275. These are the fastest ways to get help for a senior.
Also, under certain circumstances, the EOEA recommends calling the hotline to report suspected abuse instead of using the slower online reporting system. Call the hotline if:
- There is a life-threatening situation, or you believe the person to be in immediate danger. In this case 911 is also a proper call to make.
- You want to make an anonymous report. Anonymous reporting is allowed, but the online system cannot process anonymous reports. You can make an anonymous report of suspected elder abuse via the EOEA Elder Abuse Hotline.
- You don’t know where the elder lives. The online system requires an address to be filled in, but you can still report suspected abuse via the above hotline number if you do not have a home address for the elderly person.
MA Public Services and Non-Profit Groups
Local senior centers or councils on aging in your community are good places to turn to for help. Again, these are not agencies that can necessarily handle a situation, but they are agencies who are aware of a vast variety of resources for seniors and who will be schooled in how to get help.
The non-profit group Stop Abuse Today, Inc works with local senior centers, police departments, and outreach workers to increase awareness and develop resources for seniors and their families. They work to distribute this information in a variety of ways so that it is available and accessible to community members and seniors, so the information is there when it is needed.
Download this free PDF on senior fraud and abuse prevention, developed by the Holland, MA Police Department in partnership with Stop Abuse Today: A Guide to Protecting Older Adults from Fraud
National and Federal Organizations for Elder Abuse Information and Reporting
There are national agencies and reporting groups that can be of help as well. These groups can help seniors in any state, not just Massachusetts residents:
- Adult Protective Services: National Adult Protective Services Organization
- The Eldercare Locator, a government-sponsored helpline tasked with helping elders find all types of resources, including local Adult Protective Services and local fraud assistance. Click the link or call 1-800-677-1116
- The Better Business Bureau — https://www.bbb.org/ — to report incidences of financial fraud and exploitation
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at www.ncadv.org for information, tips for spreading awareness, education regarding the domestic abuse of seniors, and links to help
Mandated Reporters and Healthcare Workers as a Lifeline for Seniors
Many professionals who work with older adults are also mandated reporters. This means that they are required—by law—to report any known or suspected abuse, of any type, to local authorities and/or the appropriate department (such as the state EOEA system).
If you don’t know if you should make a report, if you are unsure if what you or your loved one is experiencing is a case of elder abuse, or if you don’t know where to turn, turn to one of these people. Most cases of elder abuse in the U.S. are reported by healthcare workers, so you can count them as a very good resource if you have questions, concerns, or if you are experiencing abuse or exploitation.
Examples of elder abuse mandated reporters in Massachusetts include:
- Doctors and nurses
- Physician’s Assistants and Nurse Practitioners
- Specialist physicians, for example, a podiatrist
- Therapists such as occupational and physical therapists
- Police and first responders
- Counselors and outreach workers
- Case Managers
- Home Health Care Agency personnel including Agency Directors, Home Health Aides, and CNA’s
- Assisted living facility administrators and personnel
Find a complete list of Massachusetts Mandated Reporters at: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/who-is-a-mandated-reporter-of-elder-abuse
Domestic Abuse Reporting and Organizations Help Senior Citizens, Too
Elder abuse, including the financial exploitation of elders, may be classified as domestic abuse depending on who the perpetrator is. If the offending party is one who has an intimate relationship, family relationship, or is a person who is in a position of trust in an on-going relationship (such as a friend or caregiver), the abuse may fall into the category of Domestic Abuse, and you may be able to seek help for yourself or another based upon that categorization.
Domestic abuse resources for elders in Massachusetts include:
- Any Domestic abuse hotlines or websites
- In Massachusetts: SafeLink 24-hour abuse support hotline, Phone: 1-877-785-2020
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-799-7233 or www.TheHotline.org
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Different Agencies for Different Living Situations
Who you should report suspected elder abuse to depends on what the older adult’s living situation is. There are different categorizations and different departments that handle these reports depending on where the senior lives.
The primary distinction is whether the adult lives in the community (including assisted living communities) or in a nursing or healthcare facility.
- If the elder lives in the community, for example, in their own home, in an apartment, with family or friends, or in an assisted living complex or facility, report to the Elder Protective Services at the number or website listed above (1-800-922-2275)
- If the elder lives in a nursing home, report to the Department of Public Health at 1-800-462-5540
- If the elder is in the hospital and the abuse occurred in the hospital, report to the Department of Public Health at 1-800-462-5540
The departments listed above are for the reporting of abuse and fraud against seniors aged 60 years and older in Massachusetts. If abuse occurs against a person under 60 years old who is disabled, report to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission at 1-800-426-9009.
While this may seem confusing, the bottom line is that if you suspect elder abuse, report it to the most available or most sensible agency or resource. Always remember, your local police department is always a good resource to file a report of abuse to.
Get Help from the Most Likely Service—Never Be Nervous to Report Elder Abuse or Elder Fraud!
The different categorizations of elder abuse, along with the different departments and organizations that handle reports of elder abuse, can make reporting more confusing and more stressful. Do not let this be a reason that you do not report incidence of fraud or abuse to authorities or trusted professionals—even if those incidences are only suspected fraud or abuse.
Start with the most likely department, or with a local healthcare provider, home care agency director, or your local police department. If that department is not the “right” department for the senior’s living situation, try anyway and start somewhere. They will direct you from there and help you to get in touch with the most appropriate party to handle the situation.
Private Home Care Services is a Massachusetts-based private home care agency providing care throughout the state of Massachusetts and beyond. PHCS is committed to safe, quality home care. PHCS serves elders and others, including people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and injured workers in need of catastrophic care.
The information provided here is offered in the interest of spreading awareness about elder abuse as well as providing important reporting information to get affected seniors the help that they need.
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