Healthcare Headlines Blog

What Is the Elder Justice Act?

By Boo Tilghman, RN, BSN, CHPN
What Is the Elder Justice Act? The Elder Justice Act is designed to provide federal resources to prevent, detect, treat, understand, intervene in and, where appropriate, prosecute elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Elder Justice Act is a comprehensive elder abuse prevention law which was enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010. Before The Elder Justice Act was enacted, federal funding for programs and justice regulations was not available. Now, education, awareness programs, training and other services are available to millions of seniors across the U.S.


Elder abuse refers to the actions or lack of actions that harm an older adult or place them at risk of harm or within harm’s way. The harm may be physical, mental, emotional and/or financial. True prevalence is unknown primarily due to lack of consensus regarding definition. Clinicians caring for older adults are integral and crucial to the prevention, intervention and treatment of elder abuse.

The Elder Justice Act provisions apply to the following long term care providers that received at least $10,000 in federal funds during the previous year:

  • Nursing facilities
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Inpatient hospice units
  • Intermediate care facilities for mentally disabled
  • Assisted living facilities are not included under this statute

The act describes the responsibilities of the long term care providers. The overall responsibilities fall into the following four categories:

  1. Notify covered individuals—annually notify each covered individual of their reporting obligations
  2. Post notice—in an accessible and appropriate location, a notice for employees specifying their rights, including the right to file a complaint under the statue with the state survey agency
  3. Refrain from retaliation—providers may not retaliate against an individual who lawfully reports a reasonable suspicion of crime
  4. Employment—providers may not employ or contract with an individual that has violated the Elder Justice Act reporting requirements

What must be reported? Any “reasonable suspicion” of crimes against a resident or person receiving care at the types of facilities listed above. “Reasonable suspicion” is not defined within the act. According to the statutes of the act, “crime” is defined by the laws of the applicable city, county, state, township or village where the long term care facility is located. Failure to comply with reporting requirements could mean a civil monetary penalty of up to $300,000 and exclusion from participation in any federal health care program.

Reports must be made to the state survey agency and to one or more local law enforcement entities. There are two reporting timeframes depending on whether the resident suffers serious body injury. Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury involving extreme physical pain; involving substantial risk of death; involving protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty; or requiring medical intervention such as surgery, hospitalization or physical rehabilitation. If the resident suffers serious bodily injury, it must be reported within two hours of the event. If there is no serious bodily injury, then a report must be filed within 24 hours of the event.

The Elder Justice Act imposes additional mandatory individual reporting requirements; broadens the scope of who is required to report; and requires affirmative obligations on facilities to provide annual training to covered individuals, to post a conspicuous notice, as well as develop internal policies.

Kindred places high importance on the safety and protection of our residents and has training programs and internal policies in place for employees. Kindred also provides a Compliance Hotline for reporting suspected violations of the Code of Conduct, Kindred policies and procedures, federal/state regulations and other compliance-related matters. The Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1.800.359.7412.

By Boo Tilghman, RN, BSN, CHPN