• Center for Problem oriented policing

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Summary of Responses to Elder Physical and Emotional Abuse

The table below summarizes the responses to elder physical and emotional abuse, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and factors to consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
General Considerations for an Effective Response Strategy

Improving police understanding of elder abuse

Improves response to elder physical and emotional abuse by better preparing professionals for these cases...training covers a range of specific topicsLimited evaluation of its overall impact on the problem; may be ineffective if not backed up by adequate resources to respond to elder abuse cases

Developing policies and protocol that communicate the importance of addressing elder abuse

Improves quality of investigations by providing specific directions and emphasizing seriousness of the problem...policies and protocol are clear and specify nature of interagency relationshipsPolicies must be reinforced through monitoring and enforcement
3Promoting collaborative efforts to respond to elder abuseEnsures that victims will receive appropriate interventions from multiple professionals...professionals are committed to working together and focused on the goal of protecting vulnerable older adults; backed by laws that require collaborationRequires attention to factors that commonly undermine interagency collaborations
4Customizing police responses to the special needs of elderly victimsEnsures that interventions are responsive to older persons' needs

...tailored to local conditions

Requires extra time and effort to develop special responses for elderly victims
5Reducing general community and cultural risk factorsReduces general risk factors that contribute to elder abuse...special attention is given to risk factors affecting highest-risk victims (e.g., elderly persons with adult children as caregivers, mentally ill elderly persons)Difficult for police to affect general community-level factors such as poverty, unemployment, and isolation of elderly persons; impact on the problem may be difficult to measure
Specific Responses to Reduce Elder Physical and Emotional Abuse

Checking on elderly people at home

Provides a layer of guardianship to vulnerable adults...targeted at highest-risk victims; personal and technological methods are integrated; intervention responses are available if neededRequires extra time and effort by police, but technology can improve efficiency

Undertaking community outreach

Reduces victimization risk by spreading abuse prevention tips and encouraging reporting of abuse...the community has a "call to action" to demonstrate concern about the problem; targeted at places that seniors regularly visitMedia can assist in outreach efforts if encouraged by criminal justice leaders
8Promoting the use of ombudsmen to watch for abuse in long-term elder care facilitiesImproves guardianship and reporting...ombudsmen are properly trained, including in police role in responding to elder abuseAdvocates in nursing homes may not be permitted by law to report abuse without victim consent; ombudsmen primarily serve victims, not police; surveillance technology can be useful, but raises privacy issues
9Checking the backgrounds of professional caregiversLimits offenders' access to vulnerable older persons...policies and laws require abuser registries or criminal background checksBackground checks will not always show criminal backgrounds from other states; will have no effect on abuse committed by fellow residents

Participating in elder abuse centers

Improves systemic response to problem...dedicated space is made available where all professional responders can meet regularlyElder abuse forensic centers are distinct from multidisciplinary teams: they meet more regularly, are larger, and require greater effort to coordinate

Developing elder abuse fatality review teams

Helps detect and apprehend offenders, reducing future risk to other victims; improves systemic responses to elder abuse...purpose of the team is clearly established and all relevant responders regularly participateRequires time and effort to establish and maintain; may require special information-sharing agreements
Responses with Limited Effectiveness
12Enacting elder abuse laws and policies in isolation from other effective practices and strategies...criminal laws are used in conjunction with social service interventionsIf penalty enhancers are used merely for plea bargaining, net effect may be weaker sentences
13Adopting mandatory arrest and prosecution policies...victim's individual needs and preferences are considered when deciding whether to arrest and prosecute offenderVictims may lose their independence and experience more harm than good if offender is arrested; if arrest is to be made, police should initiate the action, rather than putting burden on victim to do so

Punishing older offenders with Alzheimer's/ dementia

...victims are protected and offender is treated medically; case is referred to APS; care facility is made to improve security to protect potential victimsOffender usually cannot form intent to commit the crime
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