- What is Elder Abuse
For many elders vulnerable to abuse or those who are being harmed or have been victimized, there are several options that may help. The following summarize many of the general services available. To locate services in your area, contact the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433.
When abuse, neglect, or exploitation is related to the stresses associated with care giving, risk can be reduced by with certain support services. They can reduce the older person's dependency and isolation and provide relief to caregivers. Such services may include:
• Daily money management programs:
Financial abuse frequently may occur when an older person has lost the ability to manage his or her finances. Arranging for trustworthy people to help can reduce this risk. The help may be informal, where the money manager simply helps the elder with simple tasks like paying bills, or it may involve formal transfers of authority, including representative payees, power of attorney, or conservatorship.
• Respite programs give caregivers a break:
Respite care comes in many forms. Attendants, professionals, or volunteers may come to the older person's home to provide a few hours of relief to the caregiver, or the older person may come to an agency. Some communities offer extended respite care of several days or longer.
• Home delivered meal programs:
Programs deliver nutritious meals to seniors in their homes.
Individual care attendants can assist vulnerable people with their daily activities, including bathing, shopping, and preparing meals.
• Adult day health centers:
Sometimes called adult “day care”, it can provide an array of services, including nursing care; physical, occupational, and speech therapy; and socialization to frail seniors.
• Friendly visitors:
Some programs can send a volunteer or staff member to make home visits to isolated seniors.
• Telephone reassurance programs:
Similar to a personal friendly visitor, programs staffed primarily with volunteers can make routine "check in" calls to isolated seniors or provide telephone counseling to seniors who are in emotional distress.
• Support groups and other resources for Caregivers:
Caregivers, especially family caregivers, need their own support and services to address the emotional demands and stresses of providing care. Support groups, training, and other services can provide instruction and guidance in meeting the older person's needs and handling difficult behaviors. They may relieve the tensions, resentments, and stresses that give rise to abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Case management is an approach to providing services to individuals who have multiple and changing care needs. Case managers, who may work for public or private agencies or be in private practice, can act as a “go-to” resource when difficult issues begin to arise and they may provide the following services:
• Comprehensive assessments of the older person's general health, mental capacity, and ability to manage in the home and community
• Develop "care plans," often in consultation with other professionals from several disciplines, for meeting clients' service needs
• Arrange for needed services
• Respond to problems or emergencies
• Conduct routine re-assessments to detect changes in the person's health or ability to manage, and anticipate problems before they occur
Counseling for victims or vulnerable adults can help them assess their options, plan for their safety, resolve conflicts, and overcome trauma. Group or individual counseling may be available from private therapists, health maintenance organizations, or mental health clinics. In abuse cases, counseling typically focuses on the following issues:
• Educating victims about resources and options
• Breaking through denial and shame
• Safety planning (planning what to do if abuse occurs)
• Building support networks
• Traumatic or post traumatic stress
• Family counseling to resolve or mediate conflicts and address tensions or stresses that give rise to abuse or neglect
Legal assistance is needed in many abuse cases. Legal services are provided by private attorneys, programs operated by local or state bar associations, or subsidized legal aid programs. Minnesota has a several free legal services offices for persons over the age of 60. The following interventions may be needed in abuse cases:
• Lawsuits to recover assets or property or stop the suspected exploitation
• Court intervention such as restraining orders or an eviction action to restrict contact between abusers and victims
• Guardianship, Conservatorship, or other alternative decision-making
• Prosecution of offenders
• Assistance with obtaining restitution
Mental health assessments are often needed to determine if an older person is capable of meeting his or her own basic needs, making decisions about services, offering testimony, and protecting him or herself against abuse. Assessments of alleged abusers' mental status are sometimes needed to determine if they pose a danger to others and are in need of treatment.
Victim witness assistance programs, which are usually located within prosecutors' offices, help victims whose cases are in the criminal justice system. They provide:
• Information to victims about the court process and the status of their cases
• Advocacy on behalf of victims. Victim advocates inform courts about victims' special needs for protection or assistance, their preferences and concerns regarding what happens to perpetrators, etc.
• Information about and assistance with compensation, restitution, and community services
Domestic violence programs provide an array of services for battered women. Some offer special services for older women or can accommodate older women's special needs. Domestic violence services include:
• Counseling for victims and abusers
• Crisis lines
• Support groups
Some situations can be remedied by providing services to abusers. Abusers who are dependent on their victims for money or a place to live may benefit from job training or placement, financial assistance, counseling in independent living, or mental health or substance abuse treatment. While it is difficult to convince some abusers to accept treatment voluntarily - particularly mental health, domestic violence, or substance abuse treatment - these services are often mandated by courts or offered as conditions of probation or as alternatives to prosecution.
Determining what interventions are appropriate in neglect cases depends on many factors, including the caregivers' willingness to improve care, the families' resources, and the willingness of the elder to accept help. Caregivers who are willing and able to improve the care they provide can be assisted by support services. A caregiver whose motive for providing care is self-interest may need to be replaced by a responsible person. Mental health services may also be needed, particularly in self-neglect cases.