Elder Abuse: A Challenge to the Mental Health System This articles was written by Michael B. Friedman, MSW and Kerri Tavel, LCSW, and was previously published More →
This is the second segment of a two-part blog dedicated to exploring the terms “elder abuse” and “elder justice” and framing the elder justice movement. The first part, Elder Justice and Elder Abuse: Two Sides of One Coin, explores the meanings of the terms elder justice and elder abuse. This segment highlights the elder justice movement and provides ways to continue its forward momentum.
Many professionals – including doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, adult protective service workers, and others – work diligently to prevent and respond to elder abuse. Some work directly with older adults to ensure they are safe and free from abuse and others focus on research, education or advocacy to build knowledge, awareness and to effect policy change. Because no one discipline, organization or service system “owns” this work, professionals collaborate with each other to improve the safety, health and well-being of older adults. This collective effort of many committed professionals across the country has created the foundation for the elder justice movement.
Recent Elder Justice Gains
- After many years of advocacy, the Elder Justice Act (EJA), enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, addresses some of the weaknesses in federal and state efforts to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older people. This is a huge gain for the elder justice movement. To join in this effort, contact the Elder Justice Coalition.
- The White House Symposium on Elder Abuse, which was held in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2012. This was an historic event for the movement. For the first time, the White House opened its doors to elder justice. Leaders in the field from around the country came together with government leaders to discuss the severity of financial exploitation and highlight future directions for field.
- Increase in government funding opportunities such as the $5.5 million dollar U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funding opportunity, which will provide funding for states and tribes to develop and evaluate innovative programs to prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
- Awareness of elder justice issues is increasing, which is evidenced on the federal level by the the points mentioned above. In NYC, this is evidenced by the development of new multidisciplinary teams focused on elder abuse cases as well as increased numbers of trainings done in legal, law enforcement, hospital, case management, mental health and academic settings.
The Elder Justice Movement is in Motion
Leaders and professionals working in the field have recently begun referring to the elder justice field as a movement, which highlights the organization and momentum the movement is gaining. This language is used during presentations and in materials developed for conferences, summits, media relations and proposals. The elder justice movement now has representation inside and outside of government and throughout the country. The field is mobilizing by seeking public awareness, prevention and response programs, research, legislation, national leadership and an increased investment through public and private funding.
Goals of the Elder Justice Movement
Elder justice leaders and advocates are developing and fine tuning goals for the elder justice movement. An ongoing goal has been to advocate for increased appropriations for the Elder Justice Act. In addition, The United States Department of Justice and Administration for Community Living has convened a group of elder justice experts to develop an Elder Justice Roadmap. True to the rich partnerships that are a cornerstone of this work, the development of the Roadmap is a collaborative effort, which will result in priorities, direction and momentum for the elder justice movement.
We Need You to Actively Participate in the Elder Justice Movement
Now that elder justice movement has gained momentum, we must continue raising awareness by educating policy makers, the general public and professionals, in aging and other fields, about the reality and severity of elder abuse – and we must work to prevent it. To do this, the movement must assiduously work to include the voices of older adults and older victims – and their non-abusing family and friends. Click here to hear victims speak.
We can do this!
To accomplish this, we need to:
- Educate professionals across disciplines about elder abuse detection and response. Click here for educational resources on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation published by the Office for Victims of Crime.
- Advocate for increased appropriations to the Elder Justice Act.
- Get involved with public awareness campaigns. Recently The Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect, University of California, Irvine launched their Ageless Alliance Campaign, which is committed to connecting people to identify, prevent and eliminate elder abuse.
We must keep our eyes fixed on raising awareness and building partnerships with other service systems to establish our presence and continue fighting against elder abuse. Together we can make a difference in the lives of older adults!