Neglect, Abuse, and Exploitation Must Be Reported
The neglect, abuse, or financial exploitation of elderly and disabled adults is illegal. In Texas, it is also a crime to discover it without making a report. Section 48.052, Texas Human Resources Code. Confidentiality is waived by law. Your attorney, clergy, and doctor must report abuse, even over your objection.
Anyone learning of neglect, abuse, or exploitation of an elderly or disabled adult is required to make an immediate report of: (1) the victim’s name, age, and address; (2) the name and address of any person responsible for the victim’s care; (3) the nature and extent of the victim’s condition; (4) the basis of the reporter’s knowledge; and (5) any other relevant information.
How to Make a Report
To make a report, visit www.txabusehotline.org or call 1-800-252-5400 to speak with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Report emergencies to 911 first.
Reports may be made anonymously. Intentionally or maliciously false reports are a crime. Mistaken reports are not, unless made in bad faith. Informants’ employers are immune for their employees’ reports, even mistaken and false ones.
A number of state agencies have jurisdiction, depending whether the victim is in a hospital, nursing home, their own home, etc. DFPS is the statewide intake for all complaints. Protective services are available to the victim, which may include social casework, case management, and arranging for psychiatric and health evaluation, home care, day care, social services, and/or health care.
To report abuse in other states, contact the National Center for Elder Abuse, www.elderabusecenter.org, 1-800-677-1116.
Self-neglect is also reportable (“the failure to provide for one’s self the goods or services, including medical services, which are necessary to avoid physical or emotional harm or pain”). Section 48.002(a)(4), Texas Human Resources Code.
As we age, our needs change. At the same time, our ability to discern and manage those changes diminishes. Adult children are uncertain whether or how to help, especially while the parent objects, “I can do it myself” or “Everything’s fine” or simply “Leave me alone.”
An annual physical is the first line of defense against self-neglect. Once your doctor and all the specialists are done, you may have more homework than you can handle. Whether you delegate to children or paid help, consider consulting a geriatric care manager for resources to keep you in charge longer. www.aginglifecare.org has a list of local providers.