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New Elder Abuse Roadmap Outlines Critical Path to Protecting Seniors

Efforts led by Justice Department, Health and Human Services to gather input from hundreds of private stakeholders; free training for attornies

"Under the Affordable Care Act, we enacted the Elder Justice Act. Through this law, the Federal Government has invested in identifying, responding to, and preventing elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Because eliminating this pervasive crime requires coordinated action, we are bringing together Federal agencies; non-profit and private sector partners; and State, local, and tribal governments.

 Together, we can build a more responsive criminal justice system, give seniors the tools to avoid financial scams, and determine the best ways to prevent elder abuse before it starts.

- President Barack Obama, declaration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 11, 2014

July 10, 2014 – The Obama Administration yesterday released The Elder Justice Roadmap, which is a program outline developed by experts in the field. It will be used by the Elder Justice Coordinating Council and others to develop strategic plans to prevent and combat elder abuse.

The government and civilian leaders in the fight against elder said The Elder Justice Roadmap will provide guidance in tackling the highest priority challenges to elder abuse prevention and prosecution, and called on all American to take a stand against the serious societal problem of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. 

Research suggests that 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 has experienced elder abuse or neglect, and that people with dementia are at higher risk for abuse.

Supported by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Elder Justice Roadmap was developed by harnessing the expertise of hundreds of public and private stakeholders from across the country and by gathering their input.

The goal of these expert summits was to identify the most critical priorities and concrete opportunities for greater public and private investment and engagement in elder abuse issues.

 “The Roadmap Project is an important milestone for elder justice,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.

Red Flags of Elder Abuse

Neglect

Lack of basic hygiene, adequate food, or clean and appropriate clothing Lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, medications) Person with dementia left unsupervised Person confined to bed is left without care Home cluttered, filthy, in disrepair, or having fire and safety hazards Home without adequate facilities (stove, refrigerator, heat, cooling, working plumbing, and electricity) Untreated pressure “bed” sores (pressure ulcers)

Financial abuse/exploitation

Lack of amenities victim could afford Vulnerable elder/adult “voluntarily” giving uncharacteristically excessive financial reimbursement/gifts for needed care and companionship Caregiver has control of elder’s money but is failing to provide for elder’s needs Vulnerable elder/adult has signed property transfers (Power of Attorney, new will, etc.) but is unable to comprehend the transaction or what it means

Psychological/emotional abuse

Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, other Caregiver isolates elder (doesn’t let anyone into the home or speak to the elder) Caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, overly concerned about spending money, or uncaring

Physical/sexual abuse

Inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores or burns Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases


The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging, helps communities, agencies and organizations ensure that elders and adults with disabilities can live with dignity, and without abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The National Center on Elder Abuse and Neglect, U.C. Irvine, prepared materials for this effort with the support of the Archstone Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute on Aging, UniHealth Foundation, and individual donors.

Finding Help

To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency.

For state reporting numbers, visit www.apsnetwork.org, visit the NCeA website at www.ncea.aoa.gov or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

To report suspected abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman. For reporting numbers, visit www.ltcombudsman.org, visit the NCeA website at http://www.ncea.aoa.govor call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

“Elder abuse is a problem that has gone on too long, but the Roadmap Report released today can change this trajectory by offering comprehensive and concrete action items for all of the stakeholders dedicated to combating the multi-faceted dimensions of elder abuse and financial exploitation.

“While we have taken some important steps in the right direction, we must do more to prevent elder abuse from occurring in the first place and face it head on when it occurs.”

“From now until 2030, every day, about 10,000 baby boomers will celebrate their 65th birthday. And the fastest-growing population is people 85 years old, or older,” says Kathy Greenlee, HHS’ assistant secretary for aging and administrator of the Administration for Community Living.

“Stemming the tide of abuse will require individuals, neighbors, communities, and public and private entities to take a hard look at how each of us encounters elder abuse—and commit to combat it.”

To support the mission of elder abuse prevention and prosecution, DOJ has developed an interactive, online curriculum to teach legal aid and other civil attorneys to identify and respond to elder abuse. 

The first three modules of the training cover what lawyers should know about elder abuse; practical and ethical strategies to use when facing challenges in this area; and a primer on domestic violence and sexual assault. This training will expand to include six one-hour modules covering issues relevant to attorneys who may encounter elder abuse victims in the course of their practice. 

HHS is supporting the mission by developing a voluntary national adult protective services (APS) data system. Collecting national data on adult mistreatment will help to identify and address many gaps about the number and characteristics of adults who are the victims of maltreatment and the nature of services that are provided by APS agencies to protect these vulnerable adults. 

The data will also help better inform the development of improved, more targeted policy and programmatic interventions.

In addition to informing federal elder justice efforts, the Roadmap has already inspired private stakeholders to take action.  For example, as a result of the Roadmap, the Archstone Foundation has funded a project at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California to develop a national training initiative.

Other funders, such as the Weinberg Foundation, have begun to consider inquiries and projects outlined in the Roadmap.  The Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College, The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, and the New York City Elder Abuse Center will be co-sponsoring a symposium in September focusing on innovations and challenges related to elder abuse multidisciplinary teams, a priority area identified in the Roadmap. 

“While federal and state governments certainly have critical roles to play, the battle against elder abuse can only be won with grassroots action at the community and individual level,” said Greenlee.

“Turning the tide against elder abuse requires much greater public commitment, so every American will recognize elder abuse when they see it and know what to do if they encounter it.”

Two steps local communities, families, and individuals can take are: 

   • Learn the signs of elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse, a program of the Administration on Aging at ACL, has developed a helpful Red Flags of Abuse Factsheet (PDF) that lists the signs of and risk factors for abuse and neglect.

   • Report suspected abuse when you see it. Contact your local adult protective services agency. Phone numbers for state or local offices can be found at the National Center for Elder Abuse website, or call 1-800-677-1116.

 

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“We must take a stand to ensure that older Americans are safe from harm and neglect. For their contributions to our nation, to our society, and to our lives, we owe them nothing less,” said Associate Attorney General West.

Key Links

>> The Elder Justice Roadmap and accompanying materials.

>> Free online training for attorneys.

>> Elder Justice Coordinating Council

 

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