Paramedics and Elder Abuse Reporting

When emergency medical responders receive a call to a nursing home or assisted-living facility, they may be in the best position to identify signs and symptoms of elder abuse. According to a recent article from ABC 7 KRCR News, “paramedics and first responders are sometimes the first to notice something is wrong.” As such, they can help to ensure that victims of nursing home abuse can receive they help they need.red-cross-29930_1280

Training Paramedics to Look for Signs of Neglect

A recently reported case of elder abuse in Redding has led to an increased emphasis on paramedics and their unique position to identify signs of elder neglect. To be sure, according to Mark Belden, an operations manager for American Medical Response, when paramedics enter the home of an elderly adult, they’re “trained to look for signs of neglect.” Under California law, paramedics must report suspicions of elder abuse or neglect, but it’s important that these first responders have the necessary training to know what they’re seeing.

For instance, paramedics in California and across the country receive training that requires them to do a “visual inspection of the patients’ surrounding and environment,” and to attempt to determine whether those patients are getting “proper nutrition.” Emergency responders also “look for the presence of old wounds and bruises.”

While paramedics certainly aren’t trained to investigate reports of elder abuse—their aim is to move a patient out of a potentially dangerous situation and to transport them to a facility where they can receive the care they need—emergency responders can make reports about their observations. As Belden explains, “we’re not police, we’re not investigators. We’re going to report what we see, we’re not going to ask questions about what’s going on there.” Yet simply knowing what to look for can help elder abuse investigators down the road and can result in a patient being safely removed from a dangerous environment.

Research on Emergency Medical Responders and Nursing Home Abuse

When paramedics think they see a sign of elder abuse, do they always report what they’ve observed? Or do we need to provide emergency medical responders with better training for spotting symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect? A report from the National Institutes of Health suggested that “paramedics and EMTs lack complete understanding of their role in the identification and reporting of elder abuse.”

Elder justice advocates tend to agree that paramedics could be a first line of defense when it comes to cases of nursing home abuse. What barriers exist to persons in these professions successfully identifying and reporting suspected cases of abuse? According to the report, paramedics need better training in identifying elder abuse, and, perhaps more significantly, they need to know who should learn about their suspicions. The following reasons existed for emergency responders failing to report suspected situations of nursing home neglect:

  •      Lack of certainty about which authority to report to;
  •      Unclear definitions of elder abuse and neglect;
  •      Lack of knowledge about mandatory reporting laws; and
  •      Concerns about anonymity.

Do you have questions about elder abuse and neglect? In some cases, signs of elder abuse may be difficult to identify. It’s very important to discuss your concerns with a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. You may be able to file a claim for compensation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Debate Over Psych Meds in Nursing Homes

Nursing Home Inspection Reorganization