Providing Training On Identifying, Reporting Elder Abuse
The Department of Human Resources Division of Aging Services (DAS) forensic specialist is promoting training/education to first-responders and mandated reporters on identifying and reporting elder abuse. Many professionals who work with older and disabled adults are considered mandated reporters and are required by Georgia law to report when they suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation.
"This project is designed to increase awareness of elder and disabled adult abuse, neglect and exploitation in Georgia and to educate mandatory reporters on misconceptions and barriers in reporting abuse," said Maria Greene, director of the Division of Aging Services. "It is also a crime in Georgia to abuse, neglect or exploit a disabled adult or elder person."
Some of the top misconceptions cited in elder abuse cases include expressions such as, it’s not really abuse--they are just old and bruise, fracture or fall easily. Or they are just old and get pressure ulcers.
Some key barriers to not reporting elder abuse among professionals is lack of awareness, education and training, lack of resources and funding, lack of awareness of criminal statues and reporting requirements, emergency placement needs for the victim and inadequately sharing of information between agencies.
It is a misdemeanor in Georgia for any mandated reporter to knowingly and willfully fail to report elder abuse. Any mandatory reporter who has knowledge of or reasonable cause to believe that an older or at-risk adult has been abused, neglected or exploited must report their suspicions, but they are not required to investigate any cases.
Under the Law, individuals who report abuse are immune from any civil or criminal liability unless he or she acted in bad faith, with a malicious purpose, or was involved in the crime or fraud--Code sections O.C.G.A 30-5-5(b)(1)(c) and O.C.G.A 30-5-8(b)(1).
Georgia law defines abuse as the willful infliction of physical pain, physical injury, mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation of essential services to a disabled adult or elder person. Neglect is when someone in the role of caregiver fails to ensure that basic needs are met. Exploitation is the illegal or improper use of the disabled adult’s resources for another’s profit or advantage.
The program that handles cases of suspected elder abuse is Adult Protective Services (APS) in the Georgia Division of Aging Services. APS is mandated under the Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Protection Act to address situations of domestic abuse, neglect or exploitation of disabled persons over age 18 or elders over age 65 living in the community and not in residential long-term care facilities.