by Cara Kenien, LMSW, MPA, Social Media Manager, NYCEAC

On a sunny and warm Wednesday morning towards the end of May, I attended the The Seventh Annual New York City Elder Abuse Conference with high expectations for a day dedicated to elder abuse, an issue that does not receive enough attention. I entered the registration area and the hustle and bustle of the 300 or so professionals also registering for the conference. I was thrilled to receive a flash drive with copies of conference presentations preloaded, helpful information literally in my hands.

After the plenary, I attended the workshop, Models of Addressing Complex Elder Abuse Situations featuring Robin Roberts, LMSW, Multidisciplinary team Coordinator for the NYC Elder Abuse Center (NYCEAC), EACCRT member Dr. Mark Nathanson and Brooklyn MDT member Venetia Felder. The workshop was moderated by Ken Onaitis, a NYCEAC Steering Committee member.

When entering the large room with big windows allowing for the bright sun to shine in, I saw over 100 conference attendees seated, waiting for the workshop session to begin. I sat down ready to take in the presentations and perspectives of the panelists and conference attendees.  Dr. Nathanson presented on what makes elder abuse cases so complex. Then Robin began her presentation by presenting an overview of some of the response systems involved with elder abuse cases,  including:

              • Health Care
              • Criminal Justice
              • Law Enforcement
              • Adult Protective Services (APS)
              • Aging Services Network
              • Mental Health
              • Child Protective Services
              • Social services
              • Elder abuse network
              • Financial institutions
              • Victim services/domestic violence/sexual assault

Robin took us through a case example that began with a physician who had seen an older patient showing signs of physical abuse. She noted that the physician had recently attended an elder abuse training and, as a result, decided to report his suspicions to APS.

Solid lines represent solid relationships & dotted lines represent ruptured relationships


The physician’s APS report activated the involvement of multiple service systems, including the New York Police Department and Department for the Aging (DFTA). While APS was investigating the physician’s report, a neighbor of the victim made a separate call to 311 (gateway for non-emergency NYC services) to report loud noises coming from the victim’s apartment.  The neighbor’s call spurs the involvement of even more systems.


Solid lines represent solid relationships & dotted lines represent ruptured relationships

As a result, a complex web of systems forms around the victim. There are SEVEN systems present in this picture and each one is trying to reach the victim to get information from her and to help.  In addition, the fragmentation in the services, represented in the slides by ruptured red lines, illustrates that the systems are not aware of each other, creating communication break downs. At this point in the presentation, I heard gasps from the audience! It is painful to observe this situation because the elder abuse victim, who has already been through so much, is trying to handle the stress of multiple professionals calling her all at once. While the systems all want to help her, she may or may not be ready to accept the help.
At this point, Robin shows the following picture…
 …and says “there’s got to be a better way!”
 The “better way” is utilizing multidisciplinary teams. Most cases of elder abuse are complex and require the involvement of many service systems. The formation of multidisciplinary teams, which includes groups of professionals from diverse disciplines coming together to provide comprehensive assessment and consultation on abuse cases, has proved to be an effective and efficient way to respond to cases.
Benefits include:
    •  Facilitate resolution for difficult cases
    • Promote coordination between agencies
    • Provide “checks and balances”–ensure interests and rights of all concerned parties are addressed
    • Identify service gaps and breakdowns in coordination or communication between agencies or individuals
    • Enhance professional skills and knowledge of individual team members by providing a forum for learning more about strategies, resources, and approaches used by various disciplines.

* From National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

Ms. Felder led the group in interesting discussions about two complex elder abuse cases. As I expected, this presentation stirred up numerous questions and comments. In addition, one member of the audience shared that she is currently assembling a multidisciplinary team in her community. As I left the session, it was clear to me that the development of multidisciplinary teams is building momentum in the elder justice field.  

Click here for more information about NYCEAC’s Multidisciplinary Teams.

We would love to hear from you about your experience at the workshop
or about MDTs in general. Reply below!

One Response to Crowd Captivated at MDT Workshop 2012 NYC Elder Abuse Conference

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