How Can Adult Protective Services Help in a Nursing Home Abuse Case?

Learn about APS's role in a suspected nursing home abuse situation, and how to contact the right agency.

By , Attorney (University of Tulsa College of Law)

According to the United States Census Bureau adults age sixty and older are the fastest growing segment of our population. As our Baby Boomers retire in ever increasing numbers, more and more of them are moving into nursing homes. This trend has triggered an unfortunate increase in instances of nursing home abuse and injuries. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, various studies have estimated that incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect affect anywhere from 10% to 50% of all nursing home residents.

What Are Adult Protective Services?

Adult Protective Services (APS) is the umbrella name for a host of social services that are provided to older adults, or to adults of any age who happen to have significant disabilities. Departments of state or local governments typically administer Adult Protective Services programs. The investigators employed by Adult Protective Services typically serve as first responders in cases of abuse or neglect in the nursing home setting and elsewhere.

How Can Adult Protective Services Help in a Nursing Home?

In an instance of nursing home abuse or neglect, Adult Protective Services can either be contacted directly, or they may be brought in at the request of health or law enforcement officials as part of an investigation.

Upon receipt of a complaint or a request for assistance, Adult Protective Services will then work closely with local professionals such as law enforcement, doctors, nurses, and the legal system as part of their investigation into alleged cases of abuse or neglect. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, "APS helps by assessing each individual's unique needs, then developing a service plan to maintain his/her safety, health and independence."

What Happens When a Report Is Made to APS?

The manner in which Adult Protective Services operate varies from state to state. However, there is a general sequence of events that applies to most programs across the country. When a report is made to APS, the response timeline typically looks like this:

  • A concerned person, often a family member or friend of an older person or nursing home resident, contacts the local APS office to report an incident of abuse or neglect.
  • A trained APS professional will screen the report. If the report meets the criteria for a suspected case of abuse or neglect, or shows strong indications of a problem, the APS investigator will meet personally with the alleged victim of the abuse or neglect.
  • The APS investigator will personally evaluate the person's situation, paying particular attention to safety, independence, and physical and mental health issues.
  • Depending on the individual's situation, the APS investigator will then contact additional social services or law enforcement professionals to assist in addressing the person's needs based on the circumstances.
  • After completion of the assessment, Adult Protective Services will formulate an assistance plan and, as appropriate, contact appropriate individuals and organizations to arrange for legal, medical, housing, economic, or other services for the elder.

How Do I Contact Adult Protective Services?

As mentioned above, each state operates a separate program of Adult Protective Services. The Eldercare Locator, a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, can provide telephone hotline numbers for the program in your state.

If you suspect that nursing home abuse or neglect has occurred, it is probably a good idea to get in touch with an experienced nursing home lawyer in your area. As a start, the lawyer can help you in identifying the correct government agency to contact for assistance, and can assist you in getting your loved one into a safe environment. After that, you and your lawyer can assess your legal options and decide on the best next steps to take.

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