Do you have an elderly loved one in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that you believe is the victim of abuse and/or neglect? If so, you are likely very concerned about their wellbeing. Sadly, elder abuse and neglect has become an increasingly common problem in the United States over the last several decades. As the older population in the U.S. continues to grow at a heretofore unprecedented rate, it is safe to assume that the issue of elder abuse will continue to plague the country. The good news is that you can do something about your suspicions of elder abuse. In fact, there is more than one route you can take if you believe an elderly love one is being abused and/or neglected.
Executive Office of Elder Affairs
In Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs is the state agency that is responsible for investigating complaints of elder abuse and for providing protective services to older individuals when warranted. In order to handle all of the complaints that come into the agency, Elder Affairs has established 22 designated Protective Services (PS) agencies that are located throughout the state. If you are concerned that an elderly individual has been, or is currently being, abused and/or neglected you may make a report at any of the PS agencies during normal business hours. You may also call the hotline after business hours at 1-800-922-2275.
What Happens after a Report Is Filed?
After a report is filed with the PS agency, a caseworker will be assigned to investigate the allegations made in the complaint. If the caseworker is able to confirm any of the allegations of abuse or neglect, the victim will be offered services that are intended to help protect the victim from further abuse. In addition, if the abuse and/or neglect warrants it, the caseworker may refer the complaint to the District Attorney’s office for legal action against the perpetrator of the abuse.
How Bad Is the Elder Abuse Problem in Massachusetts?
Accurate statistics relating to abuse and neglect of the elderly are difficult to come by for several reasons. First, states have only recently started requiring incidents of abuse and neglect of the elderly to be recorded separately by law enforcement agencies. The disparity in reporting requirements makes the collection of useful data difficult. Secondly, many elderly victims are ashamed or embarrassed to be the victim of abuse, causing many of them to remain silent. Finally, many elderly victims are dependent on their abusers for basic necessities, such as food and shelter. As a result, they fear reporting the abuse or neglect. Despite the challenges involved in gathering data, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs does gather data relating to reports and investigations, providing a glimpse into the severity of the elder abuse problem in the state. According to data collected by the agency:
- 24,978 elder abuse reports were received in 2015
- There were 7,117 newly confirmed allegations of elder abuse in 2015
- There was an increase of 37% in the total number of elder abuse reports from 2014 to 2015
- The number of confirmed allegations increased 57% between FY 2011 and FY 2015
- In FY 2015 the average number of investigations completed per month was 1,051
- In FY 2015 the average number of case in ongoing services per month was 1,028.
- In FY 2015 the average total number of cases per month in Protective Services was 2,079
Who Can You Turn to for Advice?
Along with reporting suspected elder abuse to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, you may wish to consult with an experienced Massachusetts elder law attorney in your area. If the abuse occurred in a nursing home, or other long-term care setting, you may also have the basis for a civil lawsuit against the facility. Moreover, you may wish to discuss petitioning for guardianship over your elderly loved one with your elder law attorney. As your loved one’s guardian, you will have the legal authority to do things such as review medical records, consult with providers, and even remove your loved one from a facility if you are concerned about the care he or she is receiving there.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding elder abuse, contact the experienced Massachusetts elder law attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.