Elder Abuse Laws In South Carolina

Our elderly loved ones need the law to protect them against abuse, neglect, and exploitation. When we entrust a senior family member to a caregiver or a nursing home, it’s important to know what legal protections apply to the elderly and how to ensure the law works for their wellbeing.

In South Carolina, adult protection is governed by SC Code 43-35-5, otherwise known as the Omnibus Adult Protection Act. Here are some of the relevant points under this statute.

Vulnerable Adults

The term “adult” refers to anyone 18 years or older, but the law has an emphasis on vulnerable adults. A “vulnerable adult” is as an adult who has a physical or mental condition that hinders them from providing their own care or protection. This includes, among others, a person who is of advanced age. The law specifically states, “A resident of a facility is a vulnerable adult.”

Agencies Involved

The Adult Protective Services (APS) is the branch of the Department of Social Services that protects vulnerable adults by developing policies, accepting and investigating reports of abuse, and providing related services. To name some, these are the services of the APS program:

  • Accepting reports of abuse or neglect
  • Investigating allegations of abuse or neglect
  • Assessing risk and the needs of the adult
  • Providing temporary assistance for the adult until risk is minimized
  • Case planning
  • Court intervention
  • Making referrals
  • Coordinating community services
  • Monitoring the wellbeing of the adult.

Apart from the APS, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division – Vulnerable Adults Investigation Unit – also receives reports of abuse that occur in government-operated or contracted facilities. This unit may investigate a report or refer it to a more appropriate agency. Other agencies that may be involved include the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, the Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.

When Reporting Elder Abuse Is Mandatory

Any person may report elder abuse to the authorities, but according to SC law, you are required to report if:

  • You are a doctor, nurse, mental health professional, counselor, caregiver, facility staff, social worker, religious healer, teacher, or law enforcement officer who has reason to believe that a vulnerable adult has been abused; or
  • You are any other person who has actual knowledge that a vulnerable adult has been abused.

Again, those are the instances when reporting elder abuse is required. If you are simply a family member who has suspicions that your loved one has been harmed, reporting may not be mandatory for you but you certainly can – and should – report it to authorities.

How To Report Elder Abuse Or Neglect In SC

To report your knowledge or suspicion that your loved one has been abused, you may contact the Department of Social Services office in your county, which should have a 24-hour hotline. In Richland County, the hotline number for elder abuse is (803) 714-7444.

If the abuse occurred at a government-operated or contracted facility, you may reach the toll-free hotline of the SC Law Enforcement Division: 1-866-200-6066.

When A Lawyer Is Crucial In An Elder Abuse Case

Sadly, despite the existence of the law, South Carolina has repeatedly performed poorly when it comes to protecting our seniors. In 2018, a study once again found that SC ranks 50th among US states in terms of protecting against elder abuse. The state is also 46th in spending for elder abuse prevention, and 41st in number of elder care organizations and services.

An Elder Law attorney may be indispensable to make the law work for your loved one. In South Carolina, Kassel McVey is a trusted law firm that families have counted on since 1985. Our firm is knowledgeable in SC laws concerning the elderly, and more than that, we are highly experienced in dealing with nursing homes, caregivers, and other elder care professionals. It is our commitment to put our knowledge, experience, and skills to help vulnerable seniors and their families. Call Kassel McVey today at (803) 256-4242 if you suspect a loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect.

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