In a perfect world, the elderly would be would always be respected, revered, and loved. We would seek them out for their wisdom and enlightened perspectives. We would cherish them and make sure they remained in comfortable, familiar surroundings throughout their golden years. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. The truth is, seniors are often taken advantage of by cruel and unscrupulous individuals.
However, there are those attempting to combat these injustices every day. They are called “mandated reporters,” and it’s their job to bring to light any abuse or neglect they see when it comes to seniors. Read on to find out what it takes to be one of these special people, and if mandated reporter training is right for you. *
You may already be a mandated reporter!
Many times, mandated reporters don’t have an official title identifying them as such. They may not carry cards in their wallets bearing the name, nor do they always have plaques on their walls. In fact, it’s possible to be a mandated reporter and not even know it!
The simple truth is, if you assume responsibility for the care or custody of a senior (either permanently or temporarily), you may already be a mandated reporter. This can be the case whether or not you are compensated for your services. Of course, there are some individuals who are compensated for their services who are automatically mandated reporters. These include:
- Administrators, supervisors, and any licensed staff of a public or private facility that provides care or services for elders.
- Any elder or dependent adult care custodian, health practitioner, clergy member, or employee of a county adult protective services agency or a local law enforcement agency.
- Members of the clergy from a recognized religious denomination or organization.
- Health care practitioners, including physicians, surgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, dentists, residents, interns, podiatrists, chiropractors, registered nurses, dental hygienists, licensed clinical social workers, associate clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics.
- Officers and employees of financial institutions (these are mandated to report suspected financial abuse).
Please note that the above list is by no means exhaustive, and if you think that you may be a mandated reporter, check with your local state board.
When should I report suspected abuse?
As a mandated reporter, there are specific timetables for reporting suspected abuse and penalties if you don’t follow them. For instance, you are obligated to alert the authorities if:
- You observe or have knowledge of what reasonably appears to be physical abuse, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect.
- If a senior tells you that he or she has was the victim of any of the above.
As far as the timing of the report goes, you must notify the proper parties (confidentially, and either by telephone or internet) “as soon as possible.” In other words, don’t wait days – or even hours – if you can possibly help it. And if you made the initial report via phone, you must send a written or online report within two business days.
Penalties for failing to report abuse
The penalties for failing to report suspected senior abuse can be quite serious. If found guilty, it’s considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by six months or less in jail, a fine of $1,000 or less, or both. If your failure to report results in the senior’s death or serious bodily injury, it can land you in jail for a year or less, and/or incur of fine of no more than $5,000.
Do I need mandated reporter training?
If you come into contact with the elderly on a daily basis or provide care for them either on a professional or personal level, the odds are you could benefit from mandated reporter training. Abuse and neglect can take many forms, including physical, emotional, and financial, so it helps to be prepared if you encounter any of these. Talk to a reputable elder care agency to ask about training, and how you can fulfill your special role as senior protector.
*All examples and references are for the State of California.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.