News & Events

Change in mandated reporting of elder abuse law affecting RNs

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
January/February 2005 Edition

The legal responsibility for nurses, as well as a number of other groups of professionals1, to report elder abuse was recently expanded by amendment to Massachusetts General Law. The MNA has been asked by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to alert our members to the increased legal duty for nurses. The amended law now includes self-neglect in the statutory definition of "elder abuse."

"Self neglecting elders" are defined as persons age 60 or older who have unmet essential needs for food, clothing, safe and secure shelter, personal care, supervision and medical care, that will result in serious harm or risk of harm, and the inability of the elder to remain safely in the community.

Mass General Law, Chapter 19A, requires that "any [nurse…] who has reasonable cause to believe that an elderly person is suffering from or has died as a result of abuse, shall immediately make a verbal report of such information or cause a report to be made to the department or its designated agency and shall within forty-eight hours make a written report to the department or its designated agency. Any person so required to make such reports who fails to do so shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars." In addition to the new category of self neglect, elder abuse has been defined as an act or omission (of an action) which results in serious physical or emotional injury to an elderly person or financial exploitation.

Nurses are required by law to immediately report elder abuse report to the appropriate Protective Services Agency, with after hours reports called in to the Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline at 800.922.2275. Following the verbal report, a written report on a prescribed form available from protective services must be completed. Questions may be directed to the director of protective services, Gregory Giuliano, at 617.222.7464.

Mandated reporters (nurses and others) are immune from criminal or civil liability for making an elder abuse report, unless he/she is the perpetrator of the abuse; and they are subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for failing to make an elder abuse report.

1Prior law names: "physician, physician assistant, medical intern, dentist, nurse, family counselor, probation officer, social worker, policeman, firefighter, emergency medical technician, licensed psychologist, coroner, registered physical therapist, registered occupational therapist, osteopath, podiatrist, executive director of a licensed home health agency or executive director of a homemaker service agency or manager of an assisted living residence."


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