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Awareness, brain health, caregiving, economics, and resources: the nation’s elder justice community identify these five areas as the top five priorities for moving society’s treatment of elder abuse victims out of the dark ages.
The Elder Justice Roadmap Project Report, released on July 9th, is a strategic planning document “for the field, by the field.” The result of a three-year process of interviewing and engaging 750 elder justice stakeholders from around the country, including direct service providers, policy workers, and government officials, the Report calls us all to action to pursue elder justice. The Elder Justice Roadmap Project was an initiative funded by the US Department of Justice with support from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The top 5 priorities are:
- AWARENESS was identified as a priority because elder abuse is a complex and dynamic problem that requires a holistic, coordinated response by a range of individuals and agencies who need to be educated enough to recognize and respond appropriately. Practitioners, educators, researchers, policy makers and the general public all need to be more aware of elder abuse and how to address it properly.
- BRAIN HEALTH focuses on diminished capacity and mental illness as significant issues that need to be de-stigmatized and better understood and addressed in regard to both elderly victims of abuse and perpetrators. A focus on research in this area, the experts determined, could eventually lead to abuse prevention strategies and effective responses.
- Greater support, in the form of resources and training, for the tens of millions of CAREGIVERS, paid and unpaid, who care for the elderly will help them identify, report, and prevent abuse.
- Quantifying the ECONOMICS of elder abuse is critical. Financial exploitation is just one category; all types of elder abuse have a price tag, to both victims and society, and calculating those costs (especially to Medicare and Medicaid) is a first step toward finding effective ways to reduce both the abuse and the cost.
- RESOURCES, because they are always scarce, must be invested strategically in services, research, and a database of knowledge and best practices in order to make the most effective use of them.
But the Roadmap has more than these top five priorities. Marie Therese Connolly – a co-author of the Report, an elder rights lawyer awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her work on elder abuse issues – reflects, “Individuals, teams and entities at the local, state and national levels can adapt the roadmap based on their needs and resources – to raise awareness, identify priorities, engage new partners, design strategy, and implement concrete, achievable plans of action. There’s something in the Roadmap for anyone who wants to reduce elder abuse.”
The Roadmap project will serve as both an incredible resource and opportunity for elder justice professionals and the field as a whole. “Given the scope and multifaceted nature of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, we thought it was critical not only to gather information from stakeholders around the country, but to distill that information in a concrete way that could be used by public and private entities, as well as by local communities and individuals, to help inform their efforts against elder abuse,” said Andy Mao, Coordinator, Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative and the federal liaison to the Elder Justice Roadmap Steering Committee (along with Bonnie Brandl, Risa Breckman and Marie-Therese Connolly).
Bonnie Brandl, Director of the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life, explained that the report provides “a crucial opportunity and responsibility to work together to implement these priorities on behalf of older victims.”
Added Breckman, Director, NYC Elder Abuse Center,“the elder justice roadmap is a call to action for all of those concerned about elder abuse, which this ground-breaking report reminds us ‘is a problem with solutions.’”
By Risa Breckman, LCSW, NYCEAC Executive Director & Elizabeth Bloemen, MPH, NYCEAC Social Media Associate