Mandated reporters have an important role to play

Not long ago I received a call from some friends who were concerned about their elderly neighbor. The neighbor (I will call him Bob) was discovered by a friend. Bob had fallen in his home and was unable to get up.

Paramedics were called to take Bob to the hospital.

As the paramedics arrived at his home, some of the neighbors rushed over. They could not help but notice the interior of his house was full of boxes, papers and garbage piled up to the ceiling. There was a small path for Bob to move around the house, but the condition of the home was both dangerous and unsanitary.

Bob never returned home from his hospital stay and the neighbors grew concerned. They noticed someone coming in and out of Bob’s house and inquired about their neighbor. The person they spoke to was evasive and refused to tell them of Bob’s condition or whereabouts.

Bob had lived in their neighborhood for more than 30 years. His wife had passed away over 10 years ago. Given the condition of the home and the fact that they could not get any information about their neighbor, they called me, expressing their fears.

In my role as president of Senior Concerns, I’m mandated to report any concerns about abuse or self-neglect to Adult Protective Services, a state program designed to ensure that adults with limited abilities are able to protect themselves from outside interests, including abusive friends, relatives or caregivers.

A mandated reporter is anyone who has assumed full or intermittent care for an elder or dependent adult. Examples of mandated reporters include healthcare practitioners, clergy, financial service providers and emergency service personnel.

As a mandated reporter, we’re required to report when, in our professional capacity, we have observed or have knowledge of an incident that reasonably appears to be abuse, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse or neglect.

An immediate telephone report is required, along with a written self-report within two working days. APS keeps the name of the person who made the report confidential. The case information is also confidential, meaning that APS will not convey back to the reporting party what they have discovered.

When a protective issue is identified, a social worker will visit the senior to discuss the matter, as well as recommend other services that may be helpful.

With the client’s consent, APS will work to stabilize the situation and ensure protection through information, linkage to resources, short-term care management, counseling and, when needed, emergency shelter.

Sometimes there are situations where we find the senior has put himself or herself at risk. Periodically a Meals on Wheels driver will report that their client appears to be a danger to themself, for instance, by not eating or bathing.

In these cases, APS employs the rule of “The Right to Self- Determination,” meaning adults have the right to govern themselves without outside interference. So, if a senior wants to abuse alcohol, drugs or engage in self-neglect, it is the right of that senior to do so, even if it means they put themself at risk.

If the senior is not of sound mind and their behavior may cause them harm, then APS will call in the proper authorities.

To contact APS in Ventura County, call the 24-hour Elder Abuse Hotline at (805) 654- 3200 or toll-free at (800) 754- 7600.

While certain professions and agencies are mandated reporters, to ensure that all of our community seniors are safe, everyone must be responsible for reporting suspected abuse.

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Categories: Elder CareNumber of views: 138

Tags: Adult Protective Services

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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