GENS_spring2020

GENERATIONS – Journal of the American Society on Aging

Elder Abuse Shelter Programs : From Model to Movement By Malya Kurzweil Levin, Daniel Reingold, and Joy Solomon Best practices and lessons learned for establishing successful elder abuse shelters

S helter options that can accommodate older adults’ unique medical, cognitive, therapeutic, and social service needs are a critical part of a coordinated community response to elder abuse. A recent study by the USC Keck School of Medi- cine found that family members are the most commonly identifed perpetrators of elder abuse (Weissberger et al., 2019), and elder abuse is al­ ways committed by someone in a caregiving or trusted relationship with the abused person (Hall, Karch, and Crosby, 2016). Because of the nature of these relationships, home is often the most dangerous place for peo- ple experiencing abuse. Without a safe alterna- tive, elders are likely to remain in and return to unsafe situations, cycling through systems with- out their underlying issues being resolved. Safe shelter must be connected to services and systems that can support older adults in ad­ dressing the all-encompassing impact of abuse upon their lives, helping them to move toward healing, and, whenever possible, a return home (see Solomon’s article on page 81).

Within the past decade, this simple yet pow- erful concept has evolved from one model pro- gram into a national movement. A safe location that accounts for clients’ age-specifc care needs, and that connects them to a coordinated, holistic array of services to address the various aspects and impacts of the abuse they have experienced, are the core of every effective shelter program. Beyond that, the elder abuse shelter model is flexible, and has been adapted, based on local needs and resources, across the country. This article describes the elements of a suc- cessful shelter program, the ways in which the shelter movement has evolved to support its members, and strives to seed exponential growth and best practices for starting shelters in other communities. The Birth of a Movement The lack of emergency housing—a glaring gap in protection for older victims of abuse—has existed for decades despite advances in other areas of the feld. This began to change when, in 2004, the

abstract Safe, appropriate short-term housing for people experiencing elder abuse is a critical part of a robust coordinated community response. In the past decade, the elder abuse shelter movement, which uses long-term-care communities to provide holistic, trauma-informed services to abuse victims, has grown exponentially, with shelters operating throughout the country. The SPRiNG (Shelter Partners: Region- al, National, Global) Alliance functions as a community of practice. Through identifying a local champion, securing appropriate housing based on community needs and resources, and accessing a network of sup­ port services, shelters can serve a crucial need. | key words : elder abuse, older adults, shelter

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74 | Spring 2020

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