There has been many debates on the justification of punishment for the crime of elder abuse. Many law enforcements officers treat elder case incidents as domestic disputes. It is important that the police understand their role in these cases. Their role is to assess, enforce and provide support (Payne, 2003). Many Attorney Generals has instituted a Elder Abuse Unit and hotlines and complaint sites. Despite the fact that there are agencies to help the elderly, there are problems with cohesion between local, state and federal agencies. It appears that they each have knowledge of the other agencies but they do not appear to be versed in their fellow agencies’ policies or procedures. This has resulted in many elders not receiving the protection or services needed. There must be a concerted effort by the local, state and federal governments and financial institutions. Studies have shown that more collaborative effects between agencies and the police reap huge benefits for the victims (Payne, 2003). When there are clearly red flags, they must be addressed in the early stages, not after the senior is deceased.
One issue that has raised concerns is that many home health and nurse’s aides who provide care for those elderly who are home-bound are not trained to recognize signs of elder abuse. Many witness relatives speaking harshly to their relatives, observe blatant neglect and signs of the senior wasting. These are the type of behaviors and signs that need to be reported to facilitate a thorough examination (Klawsnik, 2000).
According to the Pennsylvania’s Older Adult Protective Services, during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, 232 petitions were filed. This represents a decrease of 8% from 2009-2010 fiscal year. Of the 232 from 2010-2011, 167 were granted by the Court and guardianship petitions were filed more than any other kind (54.7%). Involuntary emergency interventions accounted for the second highest number of petitions (24%) filed. Access to records (5%), access to person (2%), protection from abuse (1%) and injunction against interference (1%) account for the remaining petitions filed.
During 2010-2011, 481 protective services investigators were trained to assess, investigate, and resolve elder victimization in Pennsylvania. Additionally, approximately 320 law enforcement, judicial, medical and social service professionals have been trained to identify, refer, resolve and prosecute cases of victimization.
Protective services investigators are provided with numerous and varied trainings. Specifically, new protective service investigators are provided with a 3.5 day basic training. This training is offered bi-annually to accommodate new hires. This course is required by law for staff that will conduct protective service investigations. The training focuses on the basic knowledge and tools provided through the Older Adults Protective Services Act and related Department of Aging regulations. Many of the smaller towns and cities do not provide training for police officers in elder abuse complaints. Many treat them as family squabbles rather than a criminal offense. This has resulted in many seniors’ lives and welfare to be placed in jeopardy.
As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov. Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.
Klawsnik, H. (2000). Elder-Abuse Offenders: A Typology. Generations, v24 n2 p17-22 Sum 2000
Payne, B., Berg, B. & Byars, K. (1999). A qualitative examination of the similarities and differences of elder abuse definitions among four groups: Nursing Home Directors, Nursing Home Employees, Police Chiefs and Students. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, Volume 10, Issue 3-4, 1999, p. 63-85