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Addressing abuse of older Americans

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 7/21/2014, 10:13 a.m.
Leaders in the fight against elder abuse announced on July 10 a framework for tackling the highest priority challenges to ...

Special to The Dallas Examiner

Leaders in the fight against elder abuse announced on July 10 a framework for tackling the highest priority challenges to elder abuse prevention and prosecution, and called on all Americans 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 have experienced elder abuse or neglect, and that people with dementia are at higher risk for abuse.

Supported by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, 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 Elder Justice Roadmap, published July 10, reflects the knowledge and perspectives of these experts in the field and will be considered by the Elder Justice Coordinating Council and others in developing their own strategic plans to prevent and combat elder abuse.

“The Roadmap Project is an important milestone for elder justice,” Associate Attorney General Tony West said. “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,” he explained. “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,” said 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 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. In addition, the data will better inform the development of improved, more targeted policy and programmatic interventions.