Elder Abuse Prevention

Did you know that every day 10,000 people turn 65 in the United States? Our demographics are shifting and we will soon have more older adults in the U.S. than ever before. Every year, an estimated 5 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation and that's only part of the picture. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an estimated 93% of elder abuse cases go unreported each year. 

What is Elder Abuse? 

Elder abuse refers to intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes harm to a vulnerable elder. Elder abuse takes many forms, including: 

  • Physical Abuse - Is the use of force causing harm or pain to an individual, which includes but not limited to) hitting, kicking, pinching, slapping, shoving, shaking, and burning. Other forms of physical abuse involve the inappropriate use of medication or physical restraints.

  • Financial Abuse/Exploitation - Involves wrongfully taking or using an older adult’s funds or property through theft, scams, fraud, or predatory lending.

  • Psychological Abuse - Causing emotional pain through verbal assaults, threats, or harassment. Perpetrators intimidate, humiliate, or attempt to isolate their victims.

  • Sexual Abuse - Is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind including, contact with an individual unable to consent to such contact - for instance, if they suffer from dementia and are unable to understand.

  • Neglect - Is an individual failing to meet the needs of an older adult who is under their care. This includes not providing essential things a person needs, such as food, water, shelter, clothing, or personal hygiene.

  • Self-Neglect - Involves the failure of a person to meet vital self-care needs, putting them at risk of harm to their safety and/or health.

Who is at Risk?

Elder abuse can occur anywhere - in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socioeconomic groups, cultures, and races. 

Reporting Suspected Elder Abuse in the Home or Community

Adult Protective Services (APS)
APS investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or exploitation of an older or disabled vulnerable adult in a community-based setting. For more information, or to report suspected abuse, call: 410-767-7000, 1-800-917-7383 toll-free, or www.dhr.maryland.gov.

Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) 
The GOCCP provides community-based services to victims of domestic violence. For more information about services available to victims of domestic violence, contact the GOCCP at 410-821-2828, toll-free 
1-877-687-9004, or at www.goccp.maryland.gov.

Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV)
The MNADV is a coalition of domestic violence programs, law enforcement agencies, and concerned citizens. For more information on the coalition’s mission and services contact MNADV at 301- 429-3601, toll free 1-800-MD-HELPS, or at http://mnadv.org.

Reporting Suspected Elder Abuse in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility

Maryland Department of Aging, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP)
The LTCOP receives, investigates, and resolves complaints made by or on behalf of residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. For more information, or to report suspected abuse, contact the Maryland Department of Aging 410-767-1100, 1-800-243-3425 toll-free, or www.aging.maryland.gov.

Maryland Attorney General's Office, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU)
MFCU investigates and prosecutes incidents of abuse and neglect of vulnerable persons who receive Medicaid and reside in assisted living or other long-term care facilities. Each referral is reviewed and either investigated for criminal prosecution or referred to the appropriate regulatory agency. For more information on protecting seniors from abuse and neglect, call 410-576-6521 or email MedicaidFraud@oag.state.md.us.

Maryland Department of Health, Office of Healthcare Quality (OHCQ)
OHCQ receives allegations of abuse and neglect regarding residents/patients in all licensed and/or federally certified facilities. For more information about OHCQ programs, or to report suspected abuse, call 410-402-8108 or visit www.dhmh.maryland.gov/ohcq   ​

Project SAFE 
(Stop Adult Financial Exploitation)

Each year, hundreds of cases of financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults are reported in Maryland. The results can be devastating — emotionally and financially. This, however, is estimated to be only a fraction of the thousands of cases that go unreported in our state. Project SAFE (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) offers training for the financial and law enforcement communities on how to detect and report financial exploitation, and educates older Marylanders about how to avoid financial exploitation.

Project SAFE is a public/private partnership of 14 different organizations: 

Various materials produced by SAFE are available, including: training materials for employees of financial institutions and law enforcement officials, an educational brochure for the public, and a video to help educate older adults how to avoid financial abuse. You can download the Model Reference Manual for Financial Institution Employees here. It is updated to reflect that financial institutions will become mandatory reporters of financial exploitation of seniors on October 1, 2012.

For more information on Project SAFE please use our Comment form.

“Training & More”

Assessing Decisional Capacity Curriculum

The Rush University Medical Center and the ABA Commission on Law and Aging have released an interactive educational curriculum on assessing the capacity of older adults, funded by The Retirement Research Foundation. The course is aimed at physicians but is valuable and useful as well for other health care clinicians and students.

The curriculum features six modules – the importance of evaluating patients’ capacities; key principles and practices; the evaluation process and content; specific capacities and situation; when to conduct an evaluation yourself and when to refer, and working with courts in guardianship proceedings. The curriculum also includes videos, a pocket reference card, a glossary, and a resource list, and is downloadable.

For more information visit the Rush University Medical Center’s website.

National Resources