Elder / Disabled Abuse

An elder adult is defined as anyone over the age of 60. A disabled adult is anyone over the age of 18 who has an intellectual disability or who is otherwise mentally or physically disabled such that he or she is wholly or partially dependent on others to meet daily living needs.

Abuse of the elderly and of disabled persons can be physical, emotional, verbal or financial. Abuse can also involve failure by a caregiver to satisfy an elderly or disabled person's basic needs or to protect him or her from harm. The person inflicting the abuse may be a spouse, family member, friend, caregiver or a stranger. ("Self-abuse" occurs when a senior or disabled person is living alone and isn't able to properly care for himself or herself.)

In Massachusetts, there are special laws and enhanced penalties designed to give added protections and prevent crimes against elderly and disabled persons. Help is available from every local police department, including here in Easthampton, MA. All departments have specially trained officers who focus on abuse of elderly and disabled persons who can respond to any situation. Help is also available from Elder Services Agencies and Disabled Persons Services Agencies throughout the county.

Reporting Suspected Elder Abuse

A fundamental duty of government is to protect its most vulnerable population - children, the elderly, and those with physical and mental disabilities. While anyone can and should report suspected abuse, Massachusetts requires certain professionals to report suspected abuse to the appropriate protective service agency. Those agencies conduct their threshold investigations and in turn must refer the most serious cases to the local District Attorney.

In the case of elders (persons age 60 and over), Massachusetts law requires physicians, nurses, dentists, social workers, police, firefighters, council on aging employees, assisted living personnel and others to file a report with the Department of Elder Affairs whenever they have reasonable cause to believe that an elderly person is suffering from or has died as a result of abuse.

The report must be made immediately to the Elder Abuse Hotline, 800-922-2275 (Voice/TTY).

The District Attorneys urge Massachusetts citizens to always give the benefit of the doubt to an elder's safety. When in doubt, report!

Crimes Against Elders

As the elder population continues to grow, crimes against elders will continue to increase in number and complexity. The EPDU staff is trained and prepared to respond to the special needs of the elder population and to ensure equal access to the criminal justice system. The EPDU investigates and prosecutes crimes committed against persons who are sixty years of age or older including, but not limited to:

  • Caregiver Neglect
  • Financial Exploitation
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse

Crimes Against Persons with Disabilities

The EPDU is dedicated to assisting victims of abuse who have disabilities. The EPDU staff is trained and prepared to respond to the special needs of persons with disabilities so as to preserve the person's dignity and trust, as well as to ensure equal access to the criminal justice system. The EPDU investigates and prosecutes crimes committed against persons with mental illness and developmental and physical disabilities, including, but not limited to:

  • Caregiver Neglect
  • Financial Fraud
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse

The EPDU provides training at the local level such as:

  • Best Practice Investigation Technique
  • Identification of Various Types of Abuse
  • Increased Awareness of Crimes
  • Mandated Reporting Requirements
  • Prompt Reporting of Suspected Abuse

For more information about the EPDU, please see the NWDA's Elders and Persons with Disabilities Unit brochure (PDF).

Important Referral Numbers & Resources

Look through a list of important referral numbers and resources for Elder and Persons with Disabilities services.

Reporting Abuse & Neglect of Individuals with Disabilities

The Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) is responsible for investigating complaints of abuse against a person with a disability by a caretaker. Mandated and non-mandated reporters report suspected instances of abuse of a person with a disability by filing a verbal report with the DPPC Hotline at 800-426-9009 and by submitting a written report to the DPPC.

Based on the person's reported disability, the report is then forwarded to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) Protective Service Program, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Investigation Unit or the Department of Mental Health (DMH) Investigation Unit for the purpose of conducting an investigation and providing services to the abused individual.

Under the authority and oversight of the DPPC and per M.G.L. chapter 19c, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Protective Service Program (MRC PSP) conducts civil investigations of allegations of abuse such as acts of physical, sexual, emotional, verbal abuse and omission by a caregiver of a person with a physical disability between the ages of 18 and 59. Protective services are provided to prevent further injury when it is determined that the abused individual was seriously injured as a result of an act and/or omission by the caregiver.


Mandated Reporters

Anyone may call the Hotline numbers. However, certain individuals are "Mandated Reporters'', these include any physician, medical intern, hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons, medical examiner, dentist, psychologist, nurse, chiropractor, podiatrist, osteopath, public or private school teacher, educational administrator, guidance or family counselor, day care worker, probation officer, social worker, foster parent, police officer or person employed by a state agency within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services as defined by section 16 of chapter 6 A, or employed by a private agency providing services to disabled persons who, in his professional capacity shall have reasonable cause to believe that a person with a disability is suffering from a reportable condition. MGL Chapter 19C: Section 1 Definitions

If you or someone you know is being abused, please call the Disabled Persons Protection Commission hotline at 800-426-9009 to file a report 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Protective Service intervention can prevent suffering, and perhaps, even save a life.