Both researchers said that each of the 50 states they studied protects seniors from physical abuse, financial or material exploitation and neglect but definitions vary. Forty-four states carried emotional or psychological abuse provisions or laws. Forty states had laws or provisions on self-neglect. Thirty-seven states addressed sexual abuse. Thirteen states protected against abandonment. Ten states – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming – defined all seven NCEA categories of abuse.
For example, Virginia identifies adult abuse as “the willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish or unreasonable confinement of an adult,” combining both physical and emotional or psychological abuse. Hawaii defines psychological abuse as “the infliction of mental or emotional distress by use of threats, insults, harassment, humiliation, provocation, intimidation, or other means that profoundly confuse or frighten a vulnerable adult.”
For independently-defined abuse, no state, Jirik and Sanders said, had independent definitions of all seven NCEA categories of abuse. This held for six states on physical abuse; 46 states on financial or material exploitation; 46 states on neglect; nine states on emotional or psychological abuse; 16 states on self-neglect; 17 states on sexual abuse, and eight states on abandonment.
For age definitions, sixteen states specified ages 60 and older; six states, ages 65 and older; Hawaii, ages 62 and older; 14 states specified two ages for persons under its elder abuse law, age 18 and older and ages 60, 62 or 65 and older. Four states – Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia – had no specified age for a defined population. The remaining states defined the age of requirement as 18 years and older.
Jirik and Sanders pointed to a lack of consistency among the 50 states on training requirements under their elder abuse and neglect laws with some provisions being detailed while others were vague. Thirty-two states did not define any training requirements for investigators of senior abuse or the categories of professionals to be involved, although training could be at an administrative or department level or regulated in a different law or code. The remaining 19 states specified training for investigators of elder/dependent adult abuse and the type of professionals required.
This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.