La Crosse County Human Services Department
La Crosse County Human Services Department

Sections on This Page:
Adults Who are Elderly or Disabled

Reporting Abuse of Those Who are Elderly or Disabled

If you suspect an elder adult or adult at risk has experienced, or currently is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation:
  • In an emergency (if someone is in immediate, life-threatening danger) call the police or 9-1-1 immediately.
  • When not an emergency/life-threatening situation, contact Adult Protective Services at 1-608-785-5700 or 1-800-500-3910.
  • OR, if the alleged abuser is a paid caregiver employed by a long term care facility (Nursing Home/Community Based Residential Facility/Residential Care Apartment Complex/3-4 bed Adult Family Home), contact the Division of Quality Assurance, Office of Caregiver Quality at 608-261-8319.
What will you be asked?
  • You may give your name and address/phone number if you choose, but you are not required to give this information. You will be asked, but are not required to know, information about the adult at risk and the incident(s).
What will happen after you contact your county elder adult/adults-at-risk agency?
  • A caseworker will be assigned to the referral and determine what response is necessary; investigation of the referral information will begin within 24 hours of receipt, excluding weekends and holidays. This responder's first concern is the safety of the adult at risk. Responders will determine the type of abuse, neglect and/or financial exploitation. Services may be recommended as needed to improve the current situation and hopefully prevent future abuse from happening. There are many agencies that work to reduce danger and provide services or assistance to victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Services offered may include referrals to health care, long term care or supportive services such as: nutrition, transportation, case management, benefits counseling, domestic violence/sexual assault services (counseling, support groups, legal advocacy, etc.) residential services and/or criminal justice interventions.
  • As a reporter of suspected abuse/neglect, you are not generally able to receive detailed information about the outcome of the investigation you report. You may, however, receive assurance that your report has been responded to. No person may be held civilly or criminally liable or be found guilty of unprofessional conduct for reporting abuse/neglect in good faith.

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Help for Those who are Elderly or Disabled to Continue Living in Their Home
(meals, cleaning, self care, etc.)

Individuals who are elderly and/or disabled and continue to live independently in their homes may need some assistance with daily needs such as maintaining their home, making meals, cleaning, transportation, managing benefits and resources, managing medications or hands-on care such as help with bathing. A variety of services are available in the community that provide for these needs. Individuals may be able to afford these services or may need some help in paying for and/or managing services needed to maintain their independence. The Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) offers the public a free, single source for information and assistance on issues affecting older people and people with disabilities regardless of their income. ADRCs are available in each Wisconsin county to get information, advice and access to a wide variety of services. ADRC staff will meet with you to privately discuss your questions and concerns. ADRCs provide information and assistance about community services, long-term care options counseling, health and wellness connections, benefits counseling, advice and assistance for urgent needs (loss of housing/heat, risk of abuse, etc.), and assessment/enrollment in public programs that provide (pay for) long-term care services. The ADRC of Western Wisconsin serves adults in Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon counties. Contact us at 608-785-5700 or 1-800-500-3910 or

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Guidance to Help Support Caregivers of Adults Who Are Disabled or Elderly

Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) can provide information and assistance to friends, relatives and caregivers of the individuals who are elderly or disabled. ADRCs can also be involved as care needs change to help family members and care providers plan for necessary services. As a caregiver, there are programs available that provide support to you emotionally or through services that the ADRC can connect you with. The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Western Wisconsin can be contacted at 608-785-5700 or 1-800-500-3910 or

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Understanding Adult Protective Services for Those in Need of Guardianship or Protective Services

When individuals who are disabled or elderly and are unable to make appropriate decisions and require Adults Who are Elderly or Disabledassistance, courts can name a substitute decision maker to assist them. Under Wisconsin statutes, the staff of Adult Protective Services work with the court, medical personnel, the county's corporation counsel, law enforcement agencies, guardians, and families to see that the individuals get the care and/or treatment services needed. Adult protective services and other staff see that services are provided in the least restrictive setting as possible. Progress and continued need of guardianship/protective services are reviewed yearly. Referrals for these services are made through a variety of sources. Adult Protective Service staff will assess the need for guardianship/protective placement or services and assist the petitioners through the court process of obtaining guardianship for the person in need. Individuals who are unable to afford the legal fees of this process may be provided assistance.   Requests for Adult Protective Services are received through the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Western Wisconson at 608-785-5700 or 1-800-500-3910 or

Definitions pertaining to guardianship and protective services:
  • Adult-at-Risk – any adult who has a physical or mental condition that substantially impairs his or her ability to care for his/her needs and who has experienced, is currently experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation.
  • Elder Adult-at-Risk – any person, age 60 or older, who has experienced, is currently experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation.
  • Physical abuse – the willful infliction of physical pain, injury, or unreasonable confinement
  • Sexual abuse – coercion into sexual contact against one's will
  • Financial exploitation – misuse of an elder or adult-at-risk's money or property
  • Emotional abuse – includes demeaning statements, harassment, isolation and threats
  • Neglect – occurs when a caregiver's failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical or dental care results in danger to the health of an elder or adult-at-risk in his or her care
  • Self-neglect – significant danger because of the inability of the elder or adult-at-risk to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical or dental care
Processes of Protective Services:
  • Guardianship – Chapter 54 of the Wisconsin Statutes governs the standards and procedures for guardianship of persons who are determined to be legally incompetent due to developmental disability, serious and persistent mental illness, degenerative brain disorder, or other like incapacities. A guardian may be appointed to manage an individual's medical and personal decisions (guardian of person) and/or their financial decisions (guardian of estate). Guardianship may be limited by the court to certain functions or may cover most of the decisions an individual must make.
  • Protective Placement – Chapter 55 of the Wisconsin Statutes provides the protective placement service law which focuses on individuals who have been declared incompetent under Chapter 54 of the Statutes, and who are in need of long-term placement in a nursing facility or other similar facility, or who are in need of services in the community. Care is to be provided in the least restrictive environment to meet the person's needs.
  • Mental Health and Drug Commitments – Chapter 51 of the Wisconsin Statutes, the Mental Health Act, governs mental health treatment. It outlines the roles of the state and the counties in providing services, the procedures for voluntary admissions to inpatient facilities, the standards and procedures for civil (involuntary) commitments, and the rights of persons receiving mental health care. This act focuses on protecting individual rights and liberties, favoring voluntary over involuntary treatment in the least restrictive environment that meets the person's needs.
    A mental health commitment can be initiated in three ways: 1) emergency detention by the police, 2) a director's hold by a physician on an inpatient psychiatric unit, and 3) three-party petitions. A person determined to meet the commitment standards can be involuntarily detained at a treatment facility for up to 72 hours. The five standards for involuntary commitment include: physical harm to self, physical harm to others, evidence of substantially impaired judgment, inability to satisfy basic needs (food, shelter, medical care) due to mental illness or drug dependence, and the standard for mental health treatment. * Pursuing mental health or drug commitment procedures is subject to the discretion of the County.
  • Alcohol Commitments – Chapter 51.54 of the Wisconsin Statutes. An intoxicated person may come voluntarily to an approved public treatment facility for emergency treatment. A person who appears to be incapacitated by alcohol shall be placed under protective custody by a law enforcement officer, who will bring the person to a treatment facility. A person can be held involuntarily up to 72 hours excluding weekends and holidays. Again, voluntary over involuntary treatment is favored. If involuntary treatment is determined necessary, there are four criteria that need to be present in order to pursue court ordered treatment: 1) the person habitually lacks self-control as to the use of alcoholic beverages, 2) the person uses alcoholic beverages to the extent their health is impaired or endangered, 3) the person uses alcoholic beverages to the extent their social or economic functioning is disrupted, 4) the person's pattern of conduct is dangerous to themselves or others. *Pursuing a Chapter 51.54 Alcohol Commitment is subject to the discretion of the County.

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Human Services Section Web Pages
Aging & Disability Resource CenterAging & Disability Resource Center Family & Children'sFamily & Children's
Integrated Support & Recovery ServicesIntegrated Support & Recovery Services Justice Support ServicesJustice Support Services
Western Region for Economic AssistanceWestern Region for Economic Assistance   

La Crosse County Human Services Department     300 4th Street North     La Crosse, WI 54601     608-784-HELP (4357)


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