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When domestic elder abuse occurs, it can be addressed – if it comes to the attention of authorities. Although each state has a different system to address elder abuse, agencies have been established by federal, state and local governments to help.

In most states, the APS (Adult Protective Services) agency, typically located within the human sevice agency, is the principal public agency responsible for both investigating reported cases of elder abuse and for providing victims and their families with treatment and protective services. In most jurisdictions, the county departments of social services maintain an APS unit that serves the need of local communities.

However, many other agencies and organizations, both public and private, are actively involved in efforts to protect vulnerable older persons from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

State and Local Agencies Helping Victims and Families Involved in Elder Abuse

  • State unit on aging
  • Law enforcement agency (e.g., the police department, the district attorney's office, the court system, the sheriff's department)
  • Medical examiner/coroner's office
  • Hospitals and medical clinics
  • State long-term care ombudsman's office
  • Public health agency
  • Area agency on aging
  • Mental health agency
  • Facility licensing/certification agency

Depending on the state law governing elder abuse, the exact roles and functions of these agencies vary widely from one jurisdiction to another.

Although most APS agencies also handle adult abuse cases (where clients are between 18 and 59 years of age), nearly 70 percent of their caseloads involve elder abuse. The APS community is relatively small compared with the groups working for other human service programs, but it is composed of a few thousand professionals, nationwide.

Adult Protective Services

In most jurisdictions, either APS, the Area Agency on Aging, or the county Department of Social Services is designated as the agency to receive and investigate allegations of elder abuse and neglect. If the investigators find abuse or neglect, they make arrangements for services to help protect the victim.

State Elder Abuse Hotlines

Many states have instituted a 24-hour toll-free number for receiving reports of abuse. Calls are confidential. Click here for elder abuse hotline numbers.
Law Enforcement

Local police, sheriff's offices, and prosecuting attorneys may investigate and prosecute abuse, particularly in cases involving sexual abuse or assault. In states whose statutes make elder abuse a crime, there may be a requirement to report suspected abuse to a law enforcement agency.

Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

Since passage of the 1975 Older Americans Act, every state has had a long term care ombudsman program to investigate and resolve nursing home complaints. The program has also been working toward extension of services to board and care facilities and, in some areas, to those who receive professional care at home. Check with your State Unit on Aging or Area Agency on Aging to see if the long term care ombudsman program in your area can help in any given instance.

Information and Referral

Every Area Agency on Aging operates an information and referral (I & R) line that can refer people to a wide range of services for people 60 and older. I & R services can be particularly helpful for locating services to help prevent abuse and neglect.

National and State Information

Often people who want to help older relatives or friends don't live near them. Long-distance caregivers can call a nationwide toll-free Eldercare Locator number (1-800-677-1116) to locate services in the community in which the elder lives.
In addition, some states have established a statewide toll-free number to provide centralized aging services information for residents of their states.

Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU)

Every State Attorney General's Office is required by Federal law to have a MFCU to investigate and prosecute Medicaid provider fraud and patient abuse or neglect in health care programs which participate in Medicaid, including home health care services.

Last Updated: May 17, 2003  Top


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