First responders often find themselves in positions where they can identify signs of abuse. Child and domestic abuse most quickly come to mind, but elder abuse is a serious problem affecting hundreds of thousands every year.
Legal Issues Related to Elder Abuse, a pocket guide from the American Bar Association, helps first responders identify the seven types of abuse while providing backup information to help. All types of abuse are reportable: physical, sexual, or psychological abuse; neglect; and financial exploitation qualify as reportable elder abuse. Self-neglect is not a crime, but you can still report it.
The guide covers risk factors to consider; legal topics such as consent, decision-making capacity, and undue influence; abusers; and how a variety of circumstances can be related or relevant to elder abuse issues. Most states have laws requiring people in authority to report abuse, and not reporting it is often a crime.
If you see something that looks fishy but you are not sure, report it. As a responding firefighter or EMS provider, your voice may be the only chance an abused or neglected elder has to escape such a situation.
Statistic to share
Approximately 10 percent of Americans ages 60 and over have experienced some form of abuse, and many agencies responsible for tracking it believe it is underreported. Family members or “trusted others” are most often the abuser.National Council on Aging