Reporting Elder Abuse – Who Do You Call?


Elder abuse is any act that causes harm or threatens the risk of harm to an adult age 60 or older. Many elders are abused in their own homes, relatives’ homes and assisted living facilities or nursing homes. If you suspect or know that an elder is at risk from a neglectful or overwhelmed caregiver, or who is being taken advantage of financially, it is your responsibility to speak up.

Elder abuse may be physical, sexual, financial, verbal or emotional in nature and may also include neglect or exploitation. Below, we’ve defined each type of elder abuse, and what they can look like.

  • Neglect is the failure of an adult to provide the goods or services necessary for his or her own safety and/or well-being, or the failure of a caregiver to provide such goods or services.
  • Exploitation is the unlawful or improper act of a caregiver using an adult or his/her resources for monetary or personal benefit/gain.
  • Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that results in injury, pain or impairment. It includes pushing, hitting, slapping, pinching and other ways of physically harming a person. It can also mean placing an individual in incorrect positions, force feeding, restraining or inappropriately administering/withholding medication.
  • Emotional abuse occurs when a person is threatened, humiliated, intimidated or otherwise psychologically hurt. It includes the violation of an adult’s right to make decisions and the loss of his or her privacy.
  • Sexual abuse includes rape or other unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact. It can also mean forced or coerced nudity, exhibitionism and other non-touching sexual situations, regardless of the age of the perpetrator.

Now that you are able to recognize the signs of elder abuse, the next step is to respond appropriately. Your response will likely depend on the severity of the situation. If an elder person is in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911.

To report elder abuse, bystanders are encouraged to contact Adult Protective Services (APS) through the Department of Job and Family Services, or their designee. The Franklin County Office on Aging APS hotline is 614-525-4348. APS investigates cases of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation for adults age 60 or older that are residing in the community. If a case of abuse is occurring in an assisted living or nursing facility, it is best to contact the Ombudsman. The Board of Developmental Disabilities investigates abuse cases in adults living with developmental disabilities.

So what happens during an elder abuse or neglect investigation? Each case is reviewed by a supervisor to determine if it meets requirements. If so, then the case is assigned for investigation. APS is required to initiate an investigation of “emergency” reports within 24 hours of referral. Investigation of all other reports are to be made within three business days.

An emergency report involves substantial risk of immediate harm to the elderly person. An investigator is required to meet face-to-face with the person reported to have been abused or neglected. Then, a determination is made in writing as to whether further protective services are needed. If there is a medical emergency, or a crime is being committed, dialing 911 is best.

APS is not the only resource available that addresses elder abuse and neglect. Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA) provides a variety of elder abuse resources in Ohio:

  • Ohio Attorney General Office, General Mike DeWine
    Answers questions and investigates consumer complaints; takes reports of fraud and scams (accepts reports online and via phone); information on website to assist victims of identity theft.

  • Disability Rights Ohio
    Provides legal advocacy and rights protection to people with disabilities; addresses issues of abuse, neglect, housing, employment and voting rights; online resource directory on disability-related topics.

  • Pro Seniors, Inc.
    This legal hotline for older Ohioans provides free legal information to Ohio residents age 60 or older. Find legal forms via the website such as Power of Attorney, Living Wills and Last Will and Testament templates.

  • Ohio Department of Health – Division of Quality Assurance, Complaint Unit
    Investigates complaints involving home care agencies, hospitals, hospice agencies, nursing facilities and any other health-related services under federal and state jurisdiction. Complaints may be filed via mail, phone, fax or email. See this FAQ page to learn more about filing a complaint.

  • State of Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman
    Paid and volunteer staff advocate for elders receiving home care, assisted living and nurse home care. They work to resolve complaints about services, help callers select a provider and offer information about benefits and consumer rights. Ombudsmen do not regulate nursing home and home health agencies, but do work with providers, residents and their families to resolves concerns.

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