Physicians must report elder abuse; what you need to know
Resolution 21-22, adopted last year, affirms ISMA’s support for screening elderly patients for financial or investment abuse and reporting suspected exploitation to authorities. Experts say such abuse is underreported but widespread. Fortunately, many resources exist to help physicians identify signs of elder financial abuse and intervene if a patient needs assistance.  Although Resolution 21-22 focuses on financial or investment abuse, the duty to report elder abuse is much broader. Continue reading to learn more.

The scope of the problem
The National Center on Elder Abuse defines elder financial abuse as “the illegal or improper use of an elder's funds, property, or assets including, but not limited to misusing or stealing an older person's money or possessions, coercing or deceiving an older person into signing any document (e.g., contracts or will), and the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney.”

In a recent article, the National Adult Protective Services Association said 1 in 9 seniors reported having been abused, neglected or exploited in the past 12 months, and 1 in 20 had experienced financial mistreatment in the recent past. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that, in the 63,500 reports it received in 2017, seniors lost an average of $17,000 when the suspect was a stranger and $50,000 when the victim knew the suspect.

Duty to report; immunity
In Indiana, anyone who believes or has reason to believe someone is an endangered adult is required by law to make a report. Endangered adults are persons 18 or older who are incapable by reason of mental illness, mental retardation, dementia, habitual drunkenness, excessive use of drugs or other physical or mental incapacity of managing or directing the management of their property, or providing or directing the provision of their own care, and who are harmed or threatened with harm as a result of neglect, battery or exploitation of their personal services or property.

If someone is required to report an endangered adult in their capacity as a staff member of a medical or other public or private institution, school, hospital, facility or agency, they must also notify the person in charge or that person’s designated agent, who also becomes responsible for reporting the abuse.

A person who files a report of an endangered adult in good faith under Indiana law is immune from civil and criminal liability for actions related to the report.

How to report abuse
Cases of elder abuse in Indiana must be reported to Indiana Adult Protective Services (IAPS) or the Indiana Attorney General. Contact IAPS at 800-992-6978 or visit here for resources and a link to a reporting form.

The form for physicians to file a report with the Indiana Attorney General can be found here.

Resources: Elder financial abuse
To learn to screen patients for possible elder financial abuse, start with the Clinician’s Pocket Guide prepared by the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program (EIFFE) at the link below. The Indiana Secretary of State’s Office joined the program in 2011 to educate physicians and others how to recognize and report elder financial abuse.

EIFEE Resources
Besides the “Clinician’s Pocket Guide,” resources include the “Senior Patient Education” brochure, the “How to Identify and Report Investment Fraud” brochure and a video, “Elder investment Fraud: A National Epidemic.”

Indiana Attorney General
Fact Sheet: “5 Steps to Protect Yourself From Financial Exploitation.”

National Adult Protective Services Association
Fact Sheet: “Elder Financial Exploitation.”

This information and these resources should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. ISMA members who are interested in receiving attorney referrals may contact the ISMA Legal Department.