The abuse of older adults can take many forms and represents a serious, under reported problem in every community across this country. Abuse is defined the the Adult Protective Services Act (Public Act 519 of 1982) as the harm or threatened harm to an adult’s health or welfare caused by another. The term “elder abuse” includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
Examples of physical abuse are slapping, hitting, kicking, imposing physical restraints, and other conduct intended to cause physical injury to an elderly person. Some examples of emotional abuse are threatening to withdraw needed care or making humiliating or demeaning remarks toward an elderly person.
Physical Abuse also includes sexual abuse, such as inappropriate touching and non-consensual or forcible sexual activity. An adult has the right to a consensual sexual relationship with another adult; however these relationships can become abusive if the adult does not have the capacity to turn away unwanted sexual advances or is coerced or threatened into consenting to sexual activity.
Neglect is the harm to an adult’s health or welfare that is the result of the adult’s inability to respond to a harmful situation [self neglect] of the failure of person who assumes responsibility for the significant aspect of the adult’s health or welfare to adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care [caregiver neglect]. An example of caregiver neglect would be leaving an elderly person who is in a wheelchair due to a stroke in front of the TV all day without meals or assistance getting to the bathroom.
Financial exploitation can include outright theft, misuse of power or attorney or other breach of fiduciary duty to manage funds belonging to an adult, or an intentional breach of a promise to repay money or provide services paid for in advance. An example of financial exploitation would be using a power of attorney to withdraw money from an elderly person’s bank account and then misappropriating the money for personal benefit instead of for the benefit of the elderly person.
This information is provided by the Elder Abuse Alliance, Inc., a non-profit organization serving Genesee County whose mission is to improve the quality of life for at-risk older adults by protecting their rights, dignity and promoting their independence and safety. www.elderabusealliance.org; P.O Box 998, Flint, MI 48501
Act 519, Public Acts of 1982; mcl 400.11.
You should report if you suspect of have reasonable cause to believe that physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of an adult has occurred. A report does not have to be based on eye witness accounts or incriminating statements or definite proof of abuse. If you suspect elder abuse you should make a report. Any person can make a report. Certain individuals (described in the next paragraph) are required by law to report suspected abuse.
All persons who are employed, licensed, registered, or certified to provide health care, education, social welfare, mental health, and other human services; employees of an agency that is licensed to provide such services; physicians; employees the country medical examiner’s office; law enforcement officers are mandatory reporters and are required to report suspected abuse.
Report suspected abuse by calling the Adult Protective Services (APS) statewide Centralized Intake Unite: 855-444-3911 (toll free). The Intake Unity operates 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. A written report may be submitted at the discretion of the reporting person but is not required.
In Genesee County a report can also be made by calling the Genesee County Sheriff’s Elder Abuse Unit at 810-257-3422.
If the person is a mandatory reporter and failed to make a report to the APS the person may be sued for damages caused by the failure to report and may be liable for a civil fine of $500.
Upon request by APS, local law enforcement officers are required to cooperate in an investigation of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation. If the APS worker is denied entry to the victim’s residence to interview the victim, APS may request the law enforcement agency to seek a search warrant.