Understanding Elder Abuse in Ohio

By Elliott Stapleton

Our elderly loved ones are vulnerable and sadly, elder abuse is all too common. Tens of thousands of elder abuse cases are reported each year in Ohio and tens of thousands more go unreported.

Elder Abuse Defined

In Ohio, elder abuse is “the infliction upon an adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish.” Ohio Rev. Code Section 5101.60(A). Elder abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological or financial.

It also includes neglect, which is defined as “the failure of an adult to provide for self the goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish or mental illness, failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services,” and abandonment. Ohio Rev. Code Section 5101.60(O). Neglect is the most common type of elder abuse.

Elder abuse is often inflicted by someone the elderly person knows, like a family member or caregiver. Elder abuse is not an isolated event, but a pattern of behavior that occurs over time and often targets only the elderly person.

Abused adults are usually too afraid to discuss the abuse in an effort to stop it for fear of what may happen if they do tell someone. The victim may try to hide or downplay his or her injuries and what the abuser did. Because abuse too often goes unreported, it is imperative we be vigilant and report abuse, neglect, or exploitation when we believe it has occurred.

How to Identify Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can be difficult to identify. There is often both behavioral and physical indicators that suggest an elderly adult needs help. Physical indicators include the adult’s condition, injuries, and condition of the adult’s living environment.

Behavioral indicators include the reporter’s interpretation of whether the adult is acting differently than he or she used to. For example, a person who was once very social may, suddenly stop attending activities that he or she enjoyed and attended for many years.

If you notice physical and/or behavioral indicators that suggest an elderly adult needs help, you should promptly report it.

How We Can Protect Our Elderly Loved Ones

Under Ohio law, anyone can report elder abuse as long as the person has reasonable cause to believe that an elderly adult is being abused, neglected or exploited, or is in a condition that is the result of abuse, neglect or exploitation. You do not need physical proof or other evidence of abuse, neglect or exploitation to make a report.

For an elder residing in his or her own home or another independent living arrangement in the community, a report may be made with the county department of job and family services where the elder resides. You may make a report by phone, mail, fax or in person during agency hours, or you can call 1-855-OHIO-APS (1-800-644-6277) toll-free 24/7. If you need to make a report, provide as much of the following information as possible:

  • Name, address and approximate age of the person.
  • Name and address of the person responsible for the victim’s care.
  • The name and address of the alleged perpetrator, if different from the caretaker.
  • The reason you suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation.
  • The nature and extent of the suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation (be specific and provide as much detail as possible).
  • The alleged perpetrator’s access to the adult, if applicable.
  • The adult’s current condition.
  • Any other known information that might be helpful in establishing the cause of the known or suspected abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation.

To find the phone number and location of your county agency, visit the County Agency Directory.

Allegations of abuse, neglect or theft involving an individual with a developmental disability may be reported to the county board of developmental disabilities. Concerns also may be referred to the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities’ Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 866-313-6733, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

When an elder resides in a licensed health care facility and the perpetrator is a resident or staff member of the facility, a report may be made by calling the Ohio Department of Health’s hotline number at 800-342-0553 or completing the online complaint form.

After a report is filed, if the county department or agency determines that there is no abuse, neglect or exploitation, Ohio law protects the reporter from civil or criminal liability unless the reporter acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose. See Ohio Rev. Code Section 5101.65.

For more information on understanding, identifying, and reporting elder abuse, please visit this link. Please feel free to contact Elliott Stapleton to review an Elder Law or Estate Planning matter.

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