Elder Abuse & Elderly Protective Services
Authored By: Elder Law Task Force + Lagniappe Law Lab
Elder Abuse & Elderly Protective Services
What is elder abuse? +
Louisiana law defines elder abuse as the infliction of physical or mental injury on an adult 60 years or older by other parties, including but not limited to such means as sexual abuse, abandonment, isolation, exploitation, or extortion of funds or other things of value, to such an extent that the health, self-determination or emotional well-being of the adult 60 or older is endangered.
What are some signs of elder abuse? +
Some signs of elder abuse to look for are:
- Physical harm, such as pushing, hitting, restraining the person;
- Emotional and verbal bullying, such as screaming, threatening or insulting the person;
- The caregiver isolating the person, or the older person becoming isolated to the point of danger;
- Sexual abuse, particularly against a person who does not consent;
- Neglect, such as not providing for medicine, medical care, food, personal care, utilities, or daily needs;
- Self-neglect to the point of danger;
- Stealing or misusing money, property, or the possessions of the elderly person.
Editor's Note: It is not always possible to be certain that elder abuse is taking place. If you observe several of these signs, but not all of them, you should still use your judgment to decide whether to make a report of potential elder abuse.
What is the Elderly Protective Services (EPS) Program? +
Elderly Protective Services is a state agency that investigates allegations of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation against persons 60 or older. EPS provides statewide services through regional offices throughout the State. You can reach EPS at 1-800-898-4910.
EPS does not investigate abuse or neglect in nursing homes, assisted living, or personal care homes of persons 60 or older. Complaints are reported to the Long Term Care Ombudsman at 1-800-960-7705 or DHH Health Standards at 1-888-810-1819.
Who should contact Elderly Protective Services (EPS)? +
EVERYONE is a mandatory reporter of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly. Doctors, dentists, nurses, social workers, counselors, police officers, psychologists, coroners, podiatrists, occupational therapists, osteopaths, probation officers, the staff of homemaker and home health agencies, or nursing facilities, financial directors, bank tellers, family members, neighbors, and friends.
What should be reported to EPS when an incident occurs? +
All reports should provide the name and address of the elder, the name and address of the person responsible for the care of the elder, and any additional information related to your suspicions. Helpful information includes, but is not limited to, observations of burns, bruises, black or swollen eyes, broken bones, dilated pupils, evidence of restraints, bedsores, lack of clothing or dirty clothing, body odor, dehydrated or starved appearance, no utilities in the home, personal property missing, no food or medication, frequent change in doctors, no visitors allowed, the victim saying he or she is afraid or ashamed.
I am afraid to call EPS. What do I do? +
Okay, so you aren't an expert on what may be abuse. It's easier to do nothing instead of "getting involved".
Recognizing the difficulties involved in reporting a potential case of abuse, the law provides the following protections:
- If you act in good faith by reporting what you believe to be abuse or neglect, you cannot be ordered by a court to pay damages, even if no abuse is validated.
- Also, no criminal charges can be brought against you if you make a report in good faith, but if you are aware of abuse or neglect and fail to report it, you could be charged with a crime and either fined or jailed;
- All reports are confidential. EPS cannot release the reporter's name without a written release signed by the reporter.
What happens after a report is made? +
EPS staff investigates each complaint. If EPS determines that the complaint is valid, EPS will create a plan to solve the problem utilizing local resources. This may involve finding someone the victim trusts to help handle finances. It may involve obtaining services such as meals on wheels or homemaker services for the victim. EPS staff may help the victim move to a safer home. In some instances, EPS may force the abuser to move and stay away from the victim. After the plan is in place, EPS staff monitors the plan at each step until the situation is resolved.
When EPS staff determines that a case of abuse or neglect warrants it, they may seek court orders to protect the victim. Additionally, EPS may send the case to the local District Attorney for criminal prosecution.
If EPS determines that it does not have appropriate authority to handle the matter, EPS will refer the investigation to other agencies, programs, or local resources able to help the victim. (For example, a complaint about a nursing home will be referred to the Ombudsman program or DHH Health Standards.)
How can I report abuse or neglect to EPS? +
Call the toll-free EPS Statewide Hotline (from within Louisiana only) at 1-800-898-4910 or, if out of state, call 1-225-342-9722.