Elder Abuse – which includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as neglect and financial exploitation in any setting – affects more than five million Americans each year. It’s a problem that causes untold pain for victims and those who care about them, and billions of dollars in costs borne by public programs, businesses, families and individuals.
To combat this growing problem, the Department of Justice nad the Department of Health and Human Services sponsored an unprecedented effort to gather input from public and private entities, experts from across the United States, and hundreds of people who address elder abuse and have a role to play in detecting and preventing it. The culmination of this effort – the Elder Justice Roadmap – is a detailed, practical guide for teams, communities, states and national entities to engage in strategic planning to create coordinated approaches to solving this serious problem.
The Roadmap highlights five top priorities critical to understanding and reducing elder abuse and to promoting health, independence and justice for older adults:
- Awareness: Increase public awareness of elder abuse, which requires a holistic, well-coordinated response in services, education, policy and research.
- Brain Health: Conduct research and enhance focus on cognitive (in)capacity and mental health – critical factors both for victims and perpetrators.
- Caregiving: Provide better support and training for the tens of millions of paid and unpaid caregivers who play a critical role in preventing elder abuse.
- Economics: Quantify the costs of elder abuse, which is often entwined with financial incentives and comes with huge fiscal costs to victims, families and society.
- Resources: Strategically invest more resources in services, education, policy development, research and expanding knowledge to reduce elder abuse.
The Roadmap offers more detailed action steps and to achieve these priorities targeted to direct services, education, policy and research. The immense cost of elder abuse, in both human and economic terms, demands corresponding resources and attention. There is a role for everyone in combating this crisis.