Older Adult Protective Services.
Very few people have heard of Act 79, The Older Persons Protection Act. This law was devised to protect the elderly from Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation and Abandonment over 20 years ago. The Act is designed to be non-intrusive and the investigators are trained to be passive in their interviews and investigations. The goal of the investigator is to evaluate the risk factors and establish services that will assist the person to remain in their home for as long as possible
There are 5 criteria for an elder at immanent risk under Act 79.
1. No responsible Caregiver.
2. A resident of the county.
3. Must be age 60 and over.
4. Must be at risk of severe bodily injury or death.
5. Lacks ability to make an informed decision.
With any of these criteria being met, a report of need can be taken. This is a report of concern. The reporters are always kept confidential and have immunity so long as the report was made in good faith. The investigator then investigates the allegations and finds ways to assist the elder person in maintaining themselves in the home for as long as possible. Many times this goal can be achieved, others it can not and the person may have to be placed in a long term care facility or preferably with family. Many times there is an alleged perpetrator (A.P). The Protective Services Investigator (P.S.I) is not concerned with pursuing the AP, but instead reducing the risk to the elderly person and notifying the proper authorities.
I have worked in this field for 10 years now. I have had several confused elderly people waving guns in my face, showing me how they are able to protect themselves. I have had more than my share of angry A.P.s rush me with weapons, noticeably breaking whisky bottles is a common favorite. I’ve had to ask people if they were beaten by a loved one or even worse, raped. Too many have said yes to these questions. I’ve held people as they admit that they forget things and don’t want to lose their memories. Its’ all they have. I’ve also seen people thriving and having many supports with family and in the community. I have seen so much. I know more that I should at my age. I know the things we tend to deny or hide our eyes from. I have to stare it down every day. It is unfortunate that such a law has to exist, but it does. I do.
In a country that ignores and disregards their elderly, there is a small band of people who have dedicated themselves to protecting the rights of our elderly. We even protect their rights to live and die as they choose. I have held the hand of more than one person who decided to allow their lives to be shortened. I stayed while their last breath went from them. I understood. I protected that. I hope that someone will be there for me when I need.
Act 79 is relevant to all states. Your local Area Agency on Aging will have contact numbers. Please look around you. Notice the “little old lady” down the street and offer a hand or make a call if they need more.