Taking Action Against Elder Mistreatment
community has its own strengths and opportuni- ties and MDTs should build upon those charac- teristics. Whether a team is started by a hospital nurse or a social worker, an older adult volunteer, a mayor or a city council member, a high school superintendent, or other leaders, the results often are similar in terms of collaboration and coopera- tion across sectors, over time. Data collection and reporting to APS A common theme in The Collaboratory’s work is recognition of the gap between heath systems’ identifcation of EM in the ED and reporting or communication with APS agencies. Laws and regulations vary state to state, and influence whether reports to APS may be made at any time or only during certain business hours. It is known that under-reporting of EM is a signifcant issue, thus each state should develop standardized APS regulations to optimize or maximize EM report- ing to APS; this would improve communication between health systems and APS professionals. Better tracking of ED cases of elder mistreat- ment and quality assurance programs that seek to identify missed cases that should have been reported to APS will help hospitals and health systems to improve the quality of their EM screening and reporting. Getting set up to report effectively is a big part of this work and requires dedicated people and other resources to achieve desired results. Thinking through these steps should be part of the process from the beginning. Use of community volunteers, interns Using community volunteers to assist more frail, vulnerable individuals may help municipalities to reduce the incidence of EM. Volunteers may help with giving older adults rides to the grocery store and-or to medical appointments, or provid- ing companionship, Learning from communities where volunteerism has been successful could be helpful to cities and towns that would like to promote similar opportunities. Many communities have one or more edu- cational venues, (e.g., community colleges, uni-
versities, trade schools, middle schools, and high schools) looking for clinical placements or internship opportunities for students and fac- ulty. These placements can encompass research or data collection projects (which are ways to spend time with and learn from older adults), needs assessment projects, and-or the creation of more comprehensive community support pro- grams for older adults. The co-authors recommend that any city or town working to become age friendly and to eliminate EM develop a list of local institutes of higher learning and fnd one helpful champion or contact at each institution. Meeting with this “champion” could lead to an ongoing collabora- tion and opportunities for students and faculty to gain valuable experience working with vulnera- ble older adults. It also is an opportunity for stu- dents and faculty to become knowledgeable about EM and to provide presentations or to run sem- inars or webinars on mistreatment and related topics for the public. Conclusion Given its work to date, The Collaboratory believes that communities can come together and work cooperatively to enhance programs and support for older adults and their families, and that health systems are critical partners in this effort. Local community leaders can lever- age volunteerism and a commitment to older adults’ well-being via the community’s public school systems and academic institutions, and ensure that plans to reduce and eliminate EM are part of a municipality’s strategic plan. Work- ing to end elder mistreatment can be part of any city, town, or region’s Age-Friendly Health System approach, which should always include a requirement to address such mistreatment. It is The Collaboratory’s hope that communities will consider these recommendations to combat elder mistreatment.
Kristin Lees Haggerty, Ph.D., M.A., is a project director at the Education Development Center, in Waltham,
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