Stories of elder abuse often spark outrage. Available data suggests that each year at least 10% of older adults are subjected to abuse, and/or neglect, yet because of the vulnerability of the elderly, they remain easy targets for abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The federal justice system put down its foot in long-term care, in the form of the Elder Justice Act (EJA).
The reporting provisions of the EJA took effect March 23, 2010, and include:
- Facilities receiving federal funding over $10,000.00 annually must report any suspected crime against an elder in a long-term care facility. Furthermore, facilities face exclusion from federal funding for retaliation against anyone reporting a suspected crime or employing an excluded individual.
- The EJA requires any owner, operator, employee, manager, agent or contractor of the facility to report reasonable suspicion of a crime against a resident or a person receiving care at the facility. Individuals face fines for failing to report a suspected crime.
- The EJA requires that all staff be notified annually of their obligation to report abuse.
- Reports must be made no later than 2 hours after the staff member discovers the crime if there is serious bodily injury and no later than 24 hours if not serious bodily injury. The crime should be reported to the facility administrator who will coordinate with police and the state survey agency.
As the federal legislative landscape focuses more attention on elder justice through increased funding to adult protective services, surveillance programs, and governmental advisory boards, long-term care facilities would be wise to focus on improving the quality of care provided to their residents. Long-term care facilities should also consider applying for the federal grant money available under the EJA to improve staff training and overall quality of care. Successful long-term care facilities will be those who become leaders in the community with regard to providing high quality care, a safe environment, and having zero tolerance for elder abuse.