Ask the legal expert: Reporting elder abuse

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Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP

Q: If a staff member suspects abuse of a resident—whether by another resident, employee, or visitor—how must it be reported?

A: The recent enactment of the Elder Justice Act (EJA) in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has clarified certain requirements for reporting elder abuse. The EJA focuses on protecting individuals age 60 or over who receive long-term care services in federally funded facilities.  

The EJA requires long-term care facilities to self-report elder abuse if they received at least $10,000 in federal funds the preceding year. Any individual who is an owner, operator, employee, manager, agent or contractor of such a facility (each a “Covered Individual”) must report any reasonable suspicion of a crime against a resident to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and one or more local law enforcement entities, such as the local police department.

These covered individuals must report all suspected abuse in the facility, including abuse by staff members, other residents and visitors. If the alleged abuse results in serious bodily injury, the covered individual must report the suspicion immediately; all other alleged abuse must be reported no more than 24 hours later. Failure to report will result in a $200,000 or $300,000 fine to the covered individual based on the resulting harm to the victim.  

Because the EJA applies only to elders living in long-term care facilities that receive federal funding, state laws supplement the act.

Most state agencies have 24-hour hotlines for abuse reporting, but persons suspecting elder abuse should call 911 immediately in emergency situations.

Please send your legal questions to John Durso at ltcnews@mcknights.com.

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