BOSTON, MA — After a report by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump found the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) and its contractors did not always properly report serious incidents of abuse or neglect of seniors to local district attorneys, the agency reports that it is taking steps to address the problem. Bump’s audit reviewed the agency’s process for screening, investigating, documenting, and reporting incidents of elder abuse. It examined the period of July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017.
In the audit, Bump notes that 7 of the 190 incidents of alleged elder abuse reviewed by her staff were not reported by agency contractors to district attorneys’ offices for investigation and possible prosecution. These incidents included bed sores, serious neglect, and emotional abuse. State regulations require that serious incidents of abuse or neglect be reported to district attorneys immediately if they result in the death of a senior and within 48 hours if they do not result in death.
The audit also calls for improvements to the agency’s process of documenting reports of abuse in its database and its security protocols governing access to that database.
“All incidents of abuse and neglect of seniors must be taken seriously and if appropriate reported to prosecutors for a full investigation and possible criminal prosecution. I’m heartened by the response of the Office of Elder Affairs to our findings and its commitment to implementing our recommendations,” Bump said of the audit findings. “This audit will help keep seniors safe by strengthening relationships between the agency, its contractors and local district attorneys, and improving oversight to ensure reports of abuse are properly handled.”
In its response, which is included in the audit, EOEA reports that it is taking action to address the deficiencies identified by Bump. These steps include:
Additionally, Bump calls on the agency to work with the Legislature to extend the time period that the agency must retain records related to unsubstantiated reports of abuse or neglect. Under current practice, EOEA removes unsubstantiated allegations of abuse or neglect and associated documentation from its computer systems one year and one day after the report is determined to be unsubstantiated. State law requires this personally identifiable information related to unsubstantiated reports be destroyed or removed within three years. The audit notes that this could create a risk that allegations of serious abuse could be removed from the agency’s database because it is determined to be unsubstantiated, when in fact the report could have warranted an investigation. It also notes that this could hinder the agency’s ability to identify repeat offenders or victims.
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs seeks to promote the independence, empowerment, and well-being of older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers. It contracts with 20 protective-service agencies (PSAs) throughout the Commonwealth to assist in receiving and investigating reports of alleged elder abuse. During the two year audit period, EOEA received annual appropriations of approximately $8.2 billion.