Emergency Medical Services Perspectives on Identifying and Reporting Victims of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Self-Neglect

Tony Rosen, Cynthia Lien, Michael E. Stern, Elizabeth M. Bloemen, Regina Mysliwiec, Thomas J. McCarthy, Sunday Clark, Mary R. Mulcare, Daniel S. Ribaudo, Mark S. Lachs, Karl Pillemer, Neal E. Flomenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers, who perform initial assessments of ill and injured patients, often in a patient's home, are uniquely positioned to identify potential victims of elder abuse, neglect, or self-neglect. Despite this, few organized programs exist to ensure that EMS concerns are communicated to or further investigated by other health care providers, social workers, or the authorities. Objective To explore attitudes and self-reported practices of EMS providers surrounding identification and reporting of elder mistreatment. Methods Five semi-structured focus groups with 27 EMS providers. Results Participants reported believing they frequently encountered and were able to identify potential elder mistreatment victims. Many reported infrequently discussing their concerns with other health care providers or social workers and not reporting them to the authorities due to barriers: 1) lack of EMS protocols or training specific to vulnerable elders; 2) challenges in communication with emergency department providers, including social workers, who are often unavailable or not receptive; 3) time limitations; and 4) lack of follow-up when EMS providers do report concerns. Many participants reported interest in adopting protocols to assist in elder protection. Additional strategies included photographically documenting the home environment, additional training, improved direct communication with social workers, a dedicated location on existing forms or new form to document concerns, a reporting hotline, a system to provide feedback to EMS, and community paramedicine. Conclusions EMS providers frequently identify potential victims of elder abuse, neglect, and self-neglect, but significant barriers to reporting exist. Strategies to empower EMS providers and improve reporting were identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-582
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • elder abuse
  • elder neglect
  • emergency medical services
  • self-neglect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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