Law, College of


Date of this Version



Elder Law Journal 19 (2012), pp. 351–384.


This Article examines state statutes providing for the mandatory reporting of older adult maltreatment. These statutes are important in protecting older adults from potential victimization at the hands of both formal and informal caregivers. Nevertheless, Professor Brank, Ms. Wylie, and Mr. Hamm argue that these statutes undermine older adults’ autonomy and individual decision making because the statutes are modeled off the parens patriae framework of child maltreatment statutes. The authors believe these statutes effectively disempower older adults because older adults, unlike children, should be considered competent decision makers unless adjudicated otherwise. The authors contend that this system is the product of improperly tailored models as well as ageism. To cure this ill in state maltreatment statutes, the authors argue that states could amend their statutes to place responsibility on older adults to self-report abuse. To further this contention, the authors developed a novel empirical study to examine how likely a sample of older adults would be to self-report maltreatment, under what circumstances they would be more likely to report, and to whom they would report. The study results demonstrate that older adults are capable of recognizing and willing to report abuse in both formal and informal caregiver situations. The authors posit that this is strong evidence that older adult maltreatment could be better addressed through empowerment of older adults rather than borrowing from the child abuse system that further disempowers them.