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Are Elder Abuse Cases Mishandled in Pennsylvania?


Senior citizens are one of our most vulnerable populations, so it is not surprising that abuse of the elderly is increasing in Pennsylvania.  Elder abuse occurs when someone harms, neglects or exploits an older or care-dependent person. According to the Department of Aging, caseworkers handled nearly 32,000 calls about potential elder abuse in the 2017-18 fiscal year, up from 18,500 five years earlier.

And now, the Office of State Inspector General, an internal Pennsylvania state government watchdog agency, is criticizing how county-level agencies investigate thousands of complaints they receive about elder abuse.

The report highlights failures by some county-level agencies to properly investigate complaints under timelines required by state law and inadequate staffing of the state office that monitors those agencies. It also says investigative practices aren’t standardized across counties and criticizes training requirements for caseworkers as far too weak.

While Governor Tom Wolf’s administration claims it has begun to address the report’s findings, the chances of an elderly person’s being abused or taken advantage of are still real.  Abuse complaints often involve physical abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.

If you or an elderly loved one has suffered harm due to elder abuse, you may be entitled to seek compensation by taking legal action against an individual or a facility that has been negligent or done deliberate damage.  However, laws regarding elder abuse are complicated, and your case must be handled properly to ensure you get the settlement you deserve.

The skilled and experienced Pennsylvania elder abuse attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters has spent decades honing his skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to abuse, negligence and medical malpractice.  Our attorneys offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, aggressively fighting for their right to compensation.

We offer a free consultation to examine the facts of your case and determine how we can help, so contact us online or call our offices to set up your free consultation.

What Are Elder Abuse Laws in Pennsylvania?

Elder abuse and neglect is illegal in Pennsylvania. The Protection from Abuse Act (23 Pa.C.S.§6101, et seq.) defines abuse as: The occurrence of one or more of the following between household members, intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood: attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, spousal sexual assault or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with or without a deadly weapon; placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury; infliction of false imprisonment; knowingly engaging in a course of conduct … which places the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

In 1997, the Pennsylvania Legislature mandated reporting of abuse on the elderly and care-dependent adults. The Pennsylvania Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) applies to all administrators and employees of long-term care facilities, older adult daily living centers and personal care homes, as well as personal care and home healthcare workers who provide services in care-dependent persons’ homes. The Act also requires state police background checks for most long-term care workers.

Abusive conduct prohibited by law includes:

  • Illegal use of chemical and physical restraints
  • Unreasonable confinement
  • Physical or sexual harm, assault, harassment or abuse
  • Depriving a patient of adequate care, food, water or medication
  • Undue influence or coercion, intimidation
  • Taking property or material and financial exploitation.

What Are Warning Signs?

The most frequently reported forms of elder abuse are self- or caregiver neglect, financial exploitation and emotional abuse.

Warning signs of abuse include:

  • Physical signs such as bruises or other injuries, bedsores, sunken eyes, or weight loss.
  • The senior suddenly becomes more withdrawn and evasive.
  • A caregiver starts living beyond their means or accompanying the senior to the bank.
  • The senior’s resources are becoming depleted.
  • The senior runs out of prescription medications prematurely.

What to do if you Suspect Abuse

Before reporting suspected abuse, you should gather information to determine the degree of danger and risk the older person faces.  If the senior is in imminent danger, you should call 911 or the Pennsylvania Statewide Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-490-8505.

Pennsylvania law provides for an emergency order from the Court of Common Pleas when there is clear evidence that an older adult is at imminent risk of death or serious physical harm. The local Area Agency on Aging can file for emergency intervention, and families or loved ones can also seek court intervention to take custody of the senior and provide necessary services for 72 hours, after which a full hearing must be scheduled.

If the dependent person is in a nursing facility, filing a complaint with the Department of Health can trigger an investigation by State Nursing Home Surveyors. If the complaint is serious and has resulted in injury, you may have a civil case against the nursing facility.


Proving damages in these cases can be very difficult.   Many of the people who are abused no longer have earnings, although they may still be receiving benefits from the government or private entities.  Sometimes, punitive damages may be appropriate where the conduct against the elder person is outrageous.  Insurance coverage may be lacking by those who have committed the abuse, and they may not have any assets to respond in damages.  All of this has to be considered.

Contact Us For Help

If you or your loved one has a serious abuse complaint that has resulted in injury, you should seek legal assistance to see whether you have grounds to file a civil case and seek financial compensation.

Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, the experienced Pennsylvania elder abuse attorneys of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters are thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome.  With our experienced staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.

Cliff Rieders is a Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.  Rieders has won numerous awards and recognition from the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and he received the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recognition award.  Cliff Rieders was a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority and served on same for 15 years.  Rieders was a Law Clerk in the federal court system for one of the most well-known and longest serving federal judges in the country, the Honorable Malcolm Muir.  Cliff has received the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, as well as the Milton D. Rosenberg Award from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers.  Rieders is on committees and organizations that write the law in many fields of practice.  Cliff Rieders was involved in the writing of the Mcare Act, which governs medical liability actions in Pennsylvania.  Cliff Rieders wrote the book on medical malpractice that lawyers use in the state.  Cliff teaches the subject of medical malpractice at seminars attended by the leading lawyers in the state.  Cliff Rieders is recognized as an outstanding authority in the medical malpractice field.  Cliff has even testified before the legislature on medical malpractice laws. Rieders is a Nationally Board certified specialist for Civil Trial and Civil Practice and Procedure, a cum laude graduate of New York University as well as Georgetown University Law Center.  Rieders is admitted in Pennsylvania, New York State, District of Columbia and numerous federal courts including the Supreme Court of the United States.  Rieders is a life member of the American Law Institute which publishes recommended legal principles utilized throughout the United States.  Cliff Rieders is the lawyer that other lawyers call for counsel and advice in the medical and hospital malpractice and pharmaceutical/vitamin supplement fields.  Cliff Rieders does substantial work in multi-district litigation in connection with pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.

Do not let an abusive situation get worse. Contact us online or call our offices today to set up your free consultation.